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The Ohio Department of Transportation has launched its 2021 construction season, which represents an investment of nearly $2 billion.
ODOT is investing $1.92 billion in 956 projects statewide. Although the season does not have firm start and end dates, Ohio DOT spokesman Matt Bruning said it typically runs from April to October.
This year’s program includes improvements to 876 bridges and 4,596 miles of pavement. Some 96 cents of every dollar invested will be dedicated to ensuring roads and bridges are in good condition. According to the American Road and Transportation Builders Association’s 2021 Bridge Report, about 5.1% of Ohio’s bridges are structurally deficient.
“Ohio’s ability to safely and easily move people and goods is vital as we continue to recover from the global pandemic,” said Gov. Mike DeWine. “As ODOT begins the 2021 construction season, there are many infrastructure projects throughout the state that will improve safety for motorists.”
According to ODOT, a motor fuel tax increase that went into effect in 2019 helped the agency keep projects on schedule, despite a drop in traffic volume in 2020.
The work scheduled for this year includes 266 safety projects. Funding also will help address some of the intersections previously prioritized by DeWine. Intersection projects range from small adjustments such as changing signage and striping to more involved work such as reconstruction. ODOT reported 36 project locations have been completed, 43 are either under construction or will be under construction this year, 101 are under design, and four still are being studied.
Work also continues on the Downtown Ramp Up, a series of projects to reconstruct interstates 70 and 71 in downtown Columbus. I-70 is a major east-west corridor that runs from Utah to Maryland. I-71 runs diagonally across Ohio, linking Cleveland and Louisville, Ky. The routes’ intersection in Columbus has been identified as a pinch point and ranks No. 67 on the American Transportation Research Institute’s top truck bottlenecks report, which was released in February. Classified by ODOT as a “megaproject,” the Downtown Ramp Up has been under construction since 2010 and has an estimated construction cost of $1.4 billion.
Also on ODOT’s project list is major reconstruction on I-75 in Lucas and Wood counties, which are in northwest Ohio. Work will involve widening the interstate and replacing the DiSalle Bridge, which carries I-75 over the Maumee River in Toledo.
As construction gets underway, officials stressed safety for motorists and crew members who are working alongside roads. Ohio’s Move Over Law requires drivers to shift over a lane (or slow down when shifting isn’t possible) when passing any vehicle with flashing lights on the side of a road.
According to ODOT, 4,536 work zone crashes occurred in Ohio last year, and 18 of those crashes were fatal. So far in 2021, ODOT crews have been hit 52 times.
“We engineer our roads to be as safe as possible, but we need motorists to do their part by obeying speed limits, paying attention, buckling up and driving sober,” said ODOT Director Jack Marchbanks. “Drivers should always pay attention, but work zones require extra attention. Just like you, these workers want to go home at the end of the day.”
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