ROADS/BRIDGES: 15-year construction delay finally comes to fruition

The widening of the Ohio Turnpike was expected to take 5 years, comes in at a tight 20

Highway Construction News November 17, 2014
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There is much to be said for savoring a delayed reaction in the great state of Ohio now that the Ohio Turnpike Commission can finally declare success on its decades-old project to widen a significant portion of the 241-mile toll road.
 
Originally conceived in April 1995 as a $460 million endeavor with a completion target of 2000, the project eventually hemorrhaged to $750 million, for which the driving public was only as of this week able to enjoy the product—a third lane addition to 159 miles stretching from the I-76/I-80 junction near Youngstown, to the Reynolds interchange.
 
The expansion plans hit a roadblock almost upon inception, when Ohio lawmakers protested the wildly unpopular toll hike that would take effect all at once—a more than 80% increase—causing the commission to quickly backpedal on the toll allotment it had approved in deference to a revised plan to phase in an 82% increase systematically over a period of 3½ years. The ration in funding was the primary cause of a revised and more protracted construction plan. Further delays were caused by supply chain issues with the delivery of steel and a subsequent regional fiscal recession that took hold of the area in the mid-2000s.
 
The project was later put on hold, in order to fund activation of E-ZPass electronic tolling on the Turnpike, as a means of streamlining toll collection for further project funding. Furthermore, a concomitantly ambitious schedule for replacing eight pairs of service plazas, which under an initial schedule announced in 1996 were to have been torn down and rebuilt in just four years, is now unlikely to be completed, as it is seen as economically unnecessary.
 
Traffic is now using the new left lane and the center lane between the I-75 interchange in Perrysburg and the U.S. 20 interchange on the Maumee-Toledo border, while the project’s contractor, Kokosing Construction, addressed minor repairs to the right lane, which, along with the shoulder, managed traffic during the left lane’s construction.
 
The commission has stated that it has no plans to widen any more of the toll road beyond the present project, because traffic is relatively light on the turnpike west of Toledo and east of Youngstown. It is with perhaps little surprise that no ceremony is planned to commemorate the project completion.

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