Groundbreaking took place in April for what will be the single most expensive project in 2006 for the Ohio Department of Transportation. The expected cost to replace the existing I-80/Meander bridge over Meander Reservoir in Austintown Township is $86.7 million. Completion is expected in fall 2009.
Mohamed Darwish, ODOT district 4 deputy director, believes this is the largest project in Northeast Ohio since I-80 was built.
Prime contractor for this project is a joint venture association with Anthony Allega Cement Contractor Inc. of Valley View, OH, and Great Lakes Construction Company from Hinckley, OH.
New twin 2,500-ft. bridges will be built over the reservoir, replacing the existing single bridge span.
The new bridges will have a uniquely designed spill containment system to protect the drinking water of 300,000 residents in Niles, Youngstown, Austintown, Canfield, Girard, and portions of Boardman.
ODOT Director Gordon Proctor stated the $86.7 million project is a prime example of state and local officials working together for the benefit of the community.
Funding is being provided through the state’s Jobs and Progress plan, part of a $5 billion, 10-year plan under the direction of Governor Bob Taft.
The Jobs and Progress plan exists to rebuild Ohio’s highway network, address high-crash and congested locations and complete the state’s rural macro-corridors.
“With the community and traveling public in mind, ODOT worked with local officials and emergency responders to design this project to achieve everyone’s goals,” said Proctor. “I am proud to say that with everyone’s cooperation, we were able to design a project that will improve safety for the traveling public as well as for the drinking water in the reservoir below.
“If you’re not in Chicago or Atlanta, this is one of the biggest, busiest truck corridors in the entire country, and obviously we have 300,000 people who depend on this reservoir for their drinking water.”
The spill containment system incorporated into the project, “probably the first of its kind in Ohio,” is designed to try to collect anything that spills and to preserve it so that it can be kept out of the drinking water and removed safely, Proctor said.
He added, “Truck traffic grows constantly. We’ve got 15,000 trucks today. We’ll have 20,000 trucks on this road in a few years. Even if only one out of 10 million trucks crashes, that’s going to be a truck crash every few months, so we know we have to plan for truck crashes. Hazardous materials are transported on I-80.
“We put in a spill containment system…so it can be pumped up and collected before it gets into the drinking water. We call it the bridge in the bathtub.”
The plan calls for keeping two lanes moving in each direction during construction and includes widening and reconstructing I-80 to six lanes from the Ohio Turnpike to SR-11 in Mahoning County.
According to Paula Putnam, Public Information Specialist/District 4, “there are some remarkable construction techniques that will be used to realign and build the new 2500-foot bridges all while keeping traffic moving with two lanes in each direction”.
The first phase will be building the eastbound bridge on a new alignment just south of the existing bridge. The second phase will shift all four lanes of traffic onto the new eastbound bridge while construction of the new westbound bridge takes place.
“Conditions of working from within the water will include the contractor’s use of portable modular barges that will be constructed in the water,” Putnam said.
The overall look of the new bridges will be the same as far as pillar design, but the beams under the new bridges will be concrete rather than steel.
As safety measures, crossovers built to maintain traffic during construction will be left in place permanently to be used in the event of an emergency. The crossovers will allow ODOT to maintain two lanes of traffic in each direction on I-80 if a spill or crash results in the closure of one of the bridges.
The new bridges have been designed to act like a closed drainage system where nothing will drain directly into the reservoir.
Instead, water will flow to the end of the bridges to the spill systems. Emergency spills will be drained through a serpentine ditch into a basin, allowing emergency forces 30 minutes reaction time.
The twin bridges will be three lanes wide on I-80 from the Ohio Turnpike to SR-46. The inside shoulders will be widened to 12 ft. and the outside shoulders will be 10 ft. wide to allow for safety in the event of vehicle breakdowns. New fencing will be installed.
Of the 55,000 vehicles traveling this 4 mi. stretch of highway daily, truck traffic makes up 30 percent. Wider shoulders on the bridges are vital to reducing congestion and to allow for emergency vehicles in the event of a crash or a spill.
Keeping traffic on the move during construction is a top priority according to Darwish.
“To do this,” he said, “ODOT will maintain two lanes of traffic in each direction on I-80 by building extra pavement and shifting traffic to provide room for crews to reconstruct the roadway.
“While the impact to motorists will be minimized, drivers need to continue to be aware and cautious when driving through the work zone as lanes will be narrowed and traffic patterns will change.”
When the new bridges are complete, the existing bridge will be demolished.
Current closures associated with this project are the I-80 westbound ramp to SR-11, the bike path under I-80 from the Trumbull County line to Ohltown Road, and North Lipkey Road.
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