Sunday, October 10, 1999

More night roadwork being done

Projects go faster; drivers less hassled

The Cincinnati Enquirer

        As most Greater Cincinnati commuters slept this construction season, the orange barrels went up and the pavers came out on some construction projects.

        And by the time drivers awoke and headed to work the next morning, highway lanes were open with fresh coats of asphalt. Orange barrels lined the side of the road, not the middle of it.

        Although night construction won't work for every project, people responsible for keeping Tristate roads in good shape are trying to do as many overnight projects as they can in the region's most congested highway stretches.

        “We're doing a whole lot more now than 10 or 15 years ago,” said Charles Meyers of the Kentucky Transportation Cabinet office in Northern Kentucky. “There's more traffic now and people demand more.”

        The trend has been popular with drivers who use the roads during the traditional morning and evening rush hours. But it usually costs more to do the work at night. And some say working next to faster-moving night traffic may be less safe for the construction workers.

        Still, there's been several overnight construction projects this year. Night work was done on northbound Interstate 75 between Interstate 74 and the Norwood Lateral, I-275 between Ohio 32 and Five Mile Road, Colerain Avenue near Northgate Mall, and Mall Road in Florence.

        And drivers appreciate it.

        “When they have it torn up during the day, that's when traffic is heavy. That's when problems occur,” said Paul Payne, 68, of Clifton, who usually sticks to driving during the daytime.

        Wyoming resident Ginger Adams takes I-75 to and from work at night and uses it to run errands during the day. Construction crews were out last week at 10 p.m. until dawn, and it didn't affect her nighttime commute to and from work.

        “As far as I can tell, it (construction) doesn't cause problems,” said Ms. Adams, 31.

        Other projects this year had daytime work going on, but saved major lane closures until after rush hour traffic cleared out: I-71 near Paramount's Kings Island, Fort Washington Way, I-71 near Ohio 48 and I-75 in Northern Kentucky where the S-curve is being reconfigured.

        “Where we traditionally knocked the interstate down to one lane, we are going to keep the interstate open to minimize the impact of construction as much as possible,” said Brian Cunningham, an Ohio Department of Transportation spokesman in Columbus.

        Bringing in extra lighting and keeping asphalt plants running does make night construction a little more expensive. For example, closing lanes at night to complete the I-71 widen ing project in southern Warren County added an extra $1.2 million to the $16 million project.

        And while there are always hazards working next to traffic, some say it may be a little more dangerous for construction workers to do their jobs at night.

        “During the day, traffic is heavier, but slower,” said Mike Thompson, regional manager for Barrett Paving, which did the night work on the eastern portion of I-275. “During the night, there are fewer vehicles, but they are going faster.”

        Although most commuters would enjoy seeing all construction done at night, it's doubtful that will ever happen.

        Lower overnight temperatures at the beginning and end of the con struction season can make it tough to put asphalt down properly. In general, asphalt needs to be laid when the temperature is higher than 40 degrees.

        More elaborate projects may require a lane to remain closed while work continues for more than eight or 10 hours at a time.

        As highways become more congested, though, overnight construction projects will remain an option.

        “Whenever you do construction, you are going to inconvenience people,” Mr. Meyers said. “You look at where the project is and what the consequences are for doing it during the day or night and decide from there.”


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