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Military Cannon Thunders End to I-70/I-75 Interchange

Fri January 01, 2010 - Midwest Edition
Linda J. Hutchinson

“Typically, a governor is called upon to honor and celebrate the ’start’ of something for his state: the start of a new program… the start up of a new business… even the start of a sports game. So imagine my surprise when I was asked to celebrate the ’end’ of something… the end of seven years of construction here at the intersection of Interstates 70 and 75,” said Gov. Ted Strickland at the Nov. 23 ribbon cutting ceremony in Dayton, Ohio.

In 2004, the I-70/I-75 interchange was dedicated as the Freedom Veterans Crossroads. That celebration was marked by the local veterans groups and military members from Wright-Patterson Air Force Base with the firing of a military cannon.

The 2009 ribbon cutting celebration began with the thunderous boom of a cannon, to signal not only the completion of the I-70/I-75 interchange, but the end of the 2009 construction season — “a season that had more than 800 active construction and maintenance projects in every region of the Buckeye State,” according to an Ohio Department of Transportation (ODOT) press release.

Interstate 75 in Dayton has seen more than its share of orange barrels, lane closures, detours and heavy equipment construction over the past years. While it will take another three to five years to complete the second and third contiguous projects on I-75, the ribbon-cutting ceremony marked the completion of one of them.

Strickland joined Miami Valley officials to mark the completion of the I-70/I-75 interchange modernization project. This seven-year project, with its $145 million price tag, is finally complete.

Kokosing Construction is the contractor for all three projects.

Strickland noted in his address that this interchange is known as the “Crossroads of America” because both interstates are among the most heavily traveled in the country.

“From Ohio, you are just a day’s drive from 60 percent of America’s population and for many that journey goes through that interchange,” he said.

Approximately 154,000 vehicles pass through it daily.

The project has transformed the interchange into one of the most modern, efficient and safest interstate crossroads in the country, according to ODOT.

Those traveling through the Dayton area, and local residents, have long viewed the three major projects under construction as one.

“The Stanley Avenue project is a separate project from the I-75 Phase 1A project. However, we combined the two projects for our monthly updates,” said Denise Heitkamp, public information officer at ODOT district 7. “The motoring public views it as one project since the two connect. There are barrels from Stanley all the way to downtown Dayton.”

The 1950’s style cloverleaf interchange at the I-70/I-75 juncture was replaced with newly designed ramps which improve safety and traffic flow, eliminates weaving and lane changing, and will meet future traffic demands, according to ODOT.

Strickland said, “this new interchange now gives the Dayton region and Ohio a strategic advantage in the logistics and distribution market.”

Strickland had stated earlier that he believes the Dayton region will become a center for logistics and distribution at the Dayton International Airport.

The confluence of these two interstates “represents strategic logistics and distribution route for Ohio and the nation,” according to ODOT.

“When you combine ODOT’s state and federal funds with the stimulus dollars Ohio received from the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act, we are in the midst of the greatest investment in Ohio’s transportation system by more than a third,” said ODOT District 7 Director Jolene M. Molitoris.

According to Molitoris, in 2000 a group of about 44 people attended a meeting “in which several themes were presented for the I-70/I-75 interchange.” Participants included artists, members of the Miami Valley Regional Planning Commission (MVRPC), the Ohio Arts Council, local developers, property owners around the interchange, the Dayton Aviation Heritage Commission, consultant CH2M Hill and other local public officials.

This diverse committee chose “Where Great Ideas Take Flight,” with aviation as the primary theme. Consultants designed images that are uniquely Dayton, including the prominent placement on the noise barriers of the Wright “B” Flyer image, the Lunar Moon Module, and military fighter jets flying in formation—signifying that Dayton is the birthplace of aviation, according to Molitoris.

“In 2004, this interchange was federally dedicated as the Freedom Veterans Crossroads… to honor all the military members — past and present — who have fought and given their lives to keep the United States the ’land of the free’,” said Strickland. “I want to thank the team from Wright-Patterson Air Force Base for being here today and for their continued investment in our state and in our citizens.”

Work continues on the other two phases of the 10 to 12-year plan to modernize I-75. The other two projects designed to improve “Malfunction Junction” in downtown Dayton are Phase 1A and the Stanley Avenue project.

Work began on Phase 1A in October 2007 and is slated for completion in October 2011. ODOT has estimated construction costs to be $122 million, with an expected overall cost of $157 million. Improvements to the Stanley Avenue interchange are estimated to cost $17 million and include the replacement of the deteriorated bridge over the Great Miami River.

“When this interchange is coupled with the CSX rail line and the old UPS air-freight facility at the airport, we have all of the makings for a successful multi-modal logistics and distribution center,” said Strickland.

“Something notable to mention is that construction, including relocating ramps and the interstate itself, was all accomplished with maintaining two lanes of traffic most of the time,” said Molitoris. “Single lane closures occurred only late at night, when traffic volumes were down. Only one ramp was closed for a small amount of time during the project.”

When all three projects are complete, they will have included the construction of 16 new bridges and a new railroad overpass, the widening of four local roads, and the rebuilding of eight ramps.

Circle ramps and left-side entrances have been or will be removed and replaced with right-hand entrances and exits. Ramps have been permanently removed at Neva Drive and Leo/Hillrose Street to allow for better traffic flow in the future, as well as to meet future traffic needs. ODOT believes the increased spacing between ramps and the new consolidated local access will relate to better traffic flow, less congestion and fewer crashes.

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