$700M Turnpike Project Bulks Up 160 Mi. in Ohio

Tue December 07, 2004 - National Edition
Brenda Ruggiero

A 160-mi. stretch of the Ohio Turnpike is in the midst of a $700 million widening project under the direction of the Ohio Turnpike Commission. The affected area involves the portion of roadway between Toledo (MP 59) and Youngstown (MP 219), in which a third lane will be added in both directions.

Lauren Dehrmann, public affairs and marketing manager for The Ohio Turnpike Commission, noted, “One third-lane construction project totaling 4.87 miles was completed in 2003. This brought the third-lane construction project to 88 percent completion, or 141 miles, at the end of 2003. While the Capital Improvement Program [CIP] continues, there was no third lane construction underway in 2004, and none is planned in 2005. The entire CIP, of which the third-lane construction is only one part, is expected to be completed in 2008.”

Dehrmann explained that the overall CIP includes renovating the original toll plazas/interchanges, reconstructing the service plazas, renovating the maintenance buildings, adding new interchanges and adding 160 mi. of third lane.

Dick Corporation, Cleveland, OH, serves as the construction manager for the widening project. The company said that construction challenges involve the replacement of 100 mainline bridges as well as 50 overhead bridges.

“Part of the third-lane project includes the reconstruction of bridges over the Turnpike –– so that the third lane can be added in the center, median area,” Dehrmann noted.

Each section of the project, covering approximately four miles, is bid separately, resulting in separate contacts.

The latest contract to be awarded was on Oct. 18, 2004. It involves the reconstruction of the Norfolk & Southern Railroad Bridge over the Ohio Turnpike located at Milepost 182.0 in Summit County. The contract went to The Ruhlin Company, Sharon Center, OH, for a bid of more than $9.5 million. Upon completion of the bridge, the commission plans to continue work in that area and complete the project.

Dehrmann said that the third lane work has been performed with minimal disruption to Turnpike travelers by maintaining two lanes open in each direction during construction.

“Additionally,” she noted, “individual third-lane projects are started and completed in one construction season, which eliminates shifting traffic and restricting lanes during the winter months.”

The cost-to-date on the entire project, including all overhead bridge construction, is reported at $579 million. Approximately half of the funding comes from bonds, and the other half is funded through current toll revenue.

“We rely heavily on toll revenue to pay for these capital improvements in addition to regular maintenance and operational costs,” Dehrmann explained. “Since we have to work within our budget, we opted to complete the areas of highest capacity first.”

Areas covered by the third lane project that have not currently been completed are MP 185 to 178 in Summit County and MP 59 to 70 in Lucas/Wood Counties.

Cuyahoga River Bridge

One contract covered by the Third Lane Project was the Cuyahoga River Bridge, which resulted in the largest construction contract in Turnpike history, a value of $51.1 million. The project began in 1999, and had an original completion date of May 2004. However, the job was completed in 2003, ahead of schedule and below engineering estimates.

The job involved constructing two new bridges in Summit County to carry the Turnpike over the Cuyahoga Valley National Park, the Cuyahoga River and the Cuyahoga Valley Scenic Railroad. Each bridge is three lanes wide and half a mile long.

The contractors for this particular project were Trumbull Corp. and National Engineering and Contracting, Strongsville, OH. Dick Corporation served as construction manager.

Dehrmann noted that this project was unique because the bridge is over a National Park, so the commission and the contractors worked very closely with the National Park Service to complete the project with minimal disturbance to the area.

In addition, this project marked the first time segmental concrete beam construction was used in an Ohio project. Approximately 54,000 cu. yds. of concrete was used to construct the bridge.

“Two major milestones for this project in 2003 were opening the new westbound bridge to traffic, followed by the demolition of the old westbound structure,” Dehrmann said. “While traffic was enjoying the free-flowing three lanes in the new bridge, which opened to traffic in early September, preparations were underway for the massive demolition of the old structure. On Wednesday, November 5, with hundreds of eager spectators gathered to see the demolition of the steel superstructure, the Turnpike’s old, westbound Cuyahoga River Bridge came down within seconds.”

This phase of demolition used 100 lbs. of explosives to demolish the remaining steel trusses, which were approximately 2,600 ft. long and weighed in excess of 9.6 million lbs., or 4,800 tons.

“The demolition marked a final page in the history of the original Cuyahoga River Bridge on the Ohio Turnpike,” Dehrmann said.

Ground was broken for the original bridge on October 27, 1952 on the west bank of the Cuyahoga River in Boston Township. The first construction contract to be completed involved the piers for the Turnpike’s half-mile long twin bridges spanning the Cuyahoga River and Ohio Canal.

The majority of the bridge work was completed in 1954, and a grand opening was held in 1955. Upon completion, the project had involved more than 30,000 man-hours of labor.