BY KAREN GERHARDINGER| MIRROR REPORTER — As a Waterville resident driving across the 3-year-old bridge into Wood County on a daily basis, Patrick McColley can appreciate the outcome of road construction projects – despite their inconvenience.
As Ohio Department of Transportation District 2 deputy director, McColley oversees every aspect of the 3,800 miles of interstate, federal and state highways as well as 950 bridges in the eight-county Northwest Ohio area. To him, orange barrels aren’t a traffic nightmare – they’re a sign of much-needed improvements.
On June 20, McColley shared with Waterville Area Chamber of Commerce members an update on current and future projects in Lucas County.
The I-475 widening project is an eight-phase project that is currently in phases 5-7, he said. This includes work on widening the interstate to three lanes between Airport Highway and U.S. 24, which has an average daily traffic count of 80,000 to 85,000 vehicles.
The $102 million diverging diamond interchange project underway at U.S. 20A is being constructed in a way that allows the roadways to remain open throughout the process. McColley credits the collaboration of partners including Monclova Township, Maumee, Lucas County, the Toledo Metropolitan Area Council of Governments (TMACOG), the Maumee-Monclova-Toledo Joint Economic Development Zone and the Toledo-Lucas County Port Authority for funding the project, which was awarded $79 million from the Ohio Department of Transportation’s Transportation Review Advisory Council.
The diverging diamond design is safer and more efficient than a traditional interchange and is planned for the I-475 and Airport Highway interchange as well. That project is currently in the design phase.
A bid opening will take place in January 2025 for an estimated $25 million interchange at U.S. 23 and Monroe Street in Sylvania.
Eventually, I-475 in Wood County will also be expanded to three lanes. A feasibility study is underway.
A diverging diamond interchange is also planned for underneath I-75 at the Exit 193 interchange of U.S. 20/U.S. 23 Fremont Pike in Wood County. The interchange, which could be under construction by 2025, will require the removal of a Burger King and the addition of a roundabout in front of Perrysburg Junior High School at East South Boundary Street.
“The area has grown a lot with industrial and commercial. It doesn’t function well,” McColley said, referring to vehicle backups around the current interchange.
ODOT has been working on widening I-75 between Findlay and Toledo for years. The last portion – the DiSalle Bridge – will be complete in August.
Since the Waterville Bridge opened in January 2020, ODOT has begun looking at new technology for bridges, including a fiberglass rebar that’s a quarter of the weight of steel with a stronger tensile weight. It’s less expensive, more ergonomic, doesn’t conduct electricity and won’t rust, McColley said.
“We’re putting it in bridges in the area,” he said. “We may create an environment where the concrete goes bad before the steel does.”
One bridge dear to the hearts of those in Waterville is the Roche de Boeuf Interurban Bridge. After an attempted sale of the property was unsuccessful, ODOT decided to move forward with demolition of the 1908 bridge. The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers is currently doing an environmental study, and the $2,450,000 funding needed to demolish the bridge has been secured. The demolition project is expected to take place in the summer of 2025.