Thursday, December 07, 2000

Work on I-275 to airport near end

Project may finish by Dec. 13, six months early

By James Pilcher
The Cincinnati Enquirer

        HEBRON — Construction on the main highway to the Cincinnati/Northern Kentucky International Airport is expected to end next week — six months early — relieving one possible headache for holiday travelers.

        Weather permitting, the refurbishment of a 6.7-mile stretch of Interstate 275 between Interstate 71/75 and Ky. 237 could be complete Dec. 13, the contractor in charge of the $29.7 million project said Wednesday.

        The project is the first road works contract in Kentucky history — and one of a few nationwide — to carry a warranty. If anything goes wrong with the new road in the next 10 years, taxpayers won't foot the bill for repairs.

        “We've got a lot of tired people, but a lot of proud people,” said Mike Shayeson, president of W.L. Harper Construction of Hebron. The firm will receive a $2.77 million bonus from the state if the project is done by Dec. 15.

        “The holidays were coming up, so we wanted to get it done for our people, plus the people who use the road for the airport.”

        The project, which began in May, was scheduled to finish in June 2001. Westbound traffic toward the airport was often reduced to one lane. The backups also affected southbound traffic on I-71/75.

        “I drive that road at least twice a week, and it can get really horrible, especially when they've got it down to one lane or if there's an accident,” said Peggy Littrell, 42, of Union.

        Kentucky Transportation Cabinet officials have sched uled a press conference todayto announce the early end to construction.

        Larry Trenkamp, construction manager for the cabinet's District Six office in Fort Mitchell, wouldn't commit to the Dec. 13 date. He did say the road could be clear of orange barrels within two weeks, however, primarily because of the extra hours committed to the project.

        The project entailed replacing the concrete over the stretch, and renovating the exit ramps at the airport, at Mineola Pike and at Ky. 237. In addition, the bridge over Elijah Creek was replaced and the bridge over Turfway Road was widened.

        Mr. Shayeson said the warranty will cover just about any problems with the road, including cracks, potholes or other decay because of poor workmanship or materials. The company would not be responsible if the highway is damaged during an accident such as a truck dropping its load.

        He said the concrete is designed to last 20-30 years.

        “We're very confident in our work and our materials,” Mr. Shayeson said. “This is the way of the future. I'm a taxpayer too, and I like the fact that the state isn't on the hook for future problems.”

        Richard Miller, associate civil engineering professor at the University of Cincinnati, said road warranties are common in Europe. But it is a relatively new concept for American public works projects.

        “I really don't know of any other states that have them,” Dr. Miller said. “What it should do is improve the quality of the work.”

        The early finish comes as good news to Dr. Jilda Vargus-Adams, an Oakley physician who said she flies from the airport at least once a month.

        “We've actually been stuck in traffic on the cell phone with the airline, and counting our blessings that the flight was delayed, or we would have missed it,” she said.

        Mr. Trenkamp said Northern Kentucky's other major interstate project — the reconstruction of I-71/75 from I-275 across Ky. 236/Donaldson Road — is also ahead of schedule.

        The $26.4 million project, originally scheduled to be finished late next fall, is on track to be completed by August, he said.


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