Monday, March 19, 2001

$15.4M project to redo I-471 stretch

By Tom O'Neill
The Cincinnati Enquirer

        Shafts of sunlight pour through the tangle of elevated highway ramps on the eastern edge of downtown Cincinnati.

        In the street-level shadows, construction equipment collects near hundreds of parking spaces used by downtown workers each weekday.

        Above, on the three-quarters of a mile stretch of Interstate 471 that connects Interstate 71 and Northern Kentucky, orange barrels line the median as thousands of cars speed by each day.

        This is life on a vital stretch of local road, where a $15.4 million road and bridge improvement project will begin in May. It is the Ohio Department of Transportation's most important new project in 2001 in Greater Cincinnati, with a fast-track completion date of Halloween day.

        The trick: lowering by 8 inches a 1,150-foot stretch of elevated I-471 near Broadway Commons to improve truck clearance below Interstate 71.

        The treat: better accessibility to Columbia Parkway, Liberty Street and Fort Washington Way from the Ohio side of the Big Mac Bridge, where daily traffic has increased fivefold in the past 22 years, to 96,360 vehicles.

        During construction, traffic will be reduced to one lane in each direction, with periodic ramp closures, and an undetermined number of parking spaces below will be temporarily eliminated.

        Advice to the public from senior engineer Jim Prevost of Columbus-based Barr Engineering, the project designer: “Just be patient.”

        Drivers there are used to closed ramps as their welcome to the north side of the Ohio River. The connection between northbound I-471 from Kentucky onto Fort

        Washington Way has been closed since August 1998. It was initially slated to open in December.

        Many downtown-bound drivers now wind up on heavily congested Sixth Street.

        “The first time I came down here, I tried to get onto Third Street and had to turn around,” said Ed Williams, a civil engineer who works downtown and parks at Sawyer Point.

        His short walk to the office involves negotiating around front-loaders, cranes and a small sea of construction-zone signs.

        The project also is a Cincinnati-area first: Columbus-based contractor Complete General Construction has assumed responsibility for subcontracting design plans.

        Typically, ODOT is responsible for designs, then puts out the bid to contractors. The process is often time-consuming.

        “Overall design time is greatly reduced,” said Mr. Prevost of Barr. “Plus, taxpayers get a project completed more quickly.”

        Work will entail new pavement on I-471 in both directions, reinforcement on seven bridges and replacing the nearly 30-year-old sealer on I-471 at the Daniel Carter Beard Bridge, also known as the Big Mac bridge.

        “In terms of design, the biggest thing is just squeezing all this work into five months,” said Larry Lyons, vice president of operations at Complete General.


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