Saturday, April 03, 1999

I-71 users happy with night work

Lanes won't be closed during day

The Cincinnati Enquirer

        LEBANON — Scrap the detour plans. Set the alarm back to its normal time. Thanks to a compromise by Ohio highway officials this week, a major construction project to start Tuesday on Interstate 71 won't throw as many kinks into the travel plans of commuters, truckers and tourists.

        And that's good news for Gary Taulbee.

Where the barrels are
        The Wilmington, Ohio, man follows I-71 to West Chester twice a week to see his mother. Initial plans to close a lane on both sides of the highway meant Mr. Taulbee expected to pick up the phone instead of his car keys.

        “I wasn't going to put up with that traffic,” he said Friday.

        Thursday's announcement that two lanes will be open in the daytime, with the bulk of construction to be completed from 9 p.m. to 6 a.m., keeps Mr. Taulbee in Mom's good graces. It also eases concerns from companies and some of the Tristate's major tourist attractions, such as Paramount's Kings Island, who feared the construction would cause massive traffic delays and eat into their business.

        For truckers, it means one less headache in a season of “orange flowers,” as Chuck Arms calls the not-so-endearing construction barrels.

        Mr. Arms travels I-71 daily from Columbus to Cincinnati and already had been scratching out an alternate route to avoid the delays estimated at up to 25 minutes.

        His question: “Why don't they always do (construction) at night?”

        The Ohio Department of Transportation's answer is that there are trade-offs. In addition to extending the project from an October completion date to November, the

        new construction schedule tacks an additional $1.2 million on to the $16 million project.

        Most of the money will go toward building an 11-inch-deep and 6-foot-wide shoulder adjacent to the high-speed lane on both sides of the road. Crews from Cincinnati-based contractor L.P. Cavett Construction Co. will work on two lanes; during daylight hours, drivers get the other two.

        Nighttime work also is more dangerous, said Larry Weisman, construction engineer for ODOT's District 8. While 85 percent of highway traffic is during the day, vehicles traveling at night tend to run faster and visibility is reduced.

        Shadows and dim light at night also make some of the jobs more difficult, he said.

        Still, Mr. Weisman said the benefit of the construction changes outweighs the increased costs and other negatives. “There is a cost associated with people sitting and waiting in traffic, and those can add up,” he said.

        Consider truck deliveries to factories, Columbus driver Randy Skaluba said.

        “Nobody warehouses anymore,” he said. “Factories wait until the last minute, and then they need their supplies right away. You shouldn't just look at the cost of construction, but the costs to entire industries.”

        LEBANON — Work on 17 miles of Interstate 71 from Ohio 48 in Warren County to just north of Ohio 380 in Clinton County is to begin Tuesday night.

        Construction crews will replace most of the highway's joints, the connectors between the slabs of pavement that allow the road to expand and contract. The last time some of these joints were repaired was in 1982.

        The Ohio Department of Transportation project also calls for repaving the road and raising some of the bridges.

        Motorists can expect:

        • Two lanes open during daytime hours and weekends.

        • From 9 p.m. to 6 a.m., the highway will be down to one lane each way.

        • The nighttime construction schedule should eliminate most long delays, but drivers still will likely see some minor slowdowns.

        • The speed limit will be reduced to 55 mph, and traffic fines will be doubled in the construction zone.

        • April: Crews from L.P. Cavett Construction Co. in Cincinnati will build a temporary extra lane, starting on the southbound side of the road.

        • May to September: The additional lanes should be built on both sides of the road, and crews are to start reconstruction on the southbound side. Road and bridge repairs are expected to last through the summer.

        • October: Work on southbound side should be completed.

        • November: Target completion date for entire project.


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