Motorists who use Interstate 75 will be able to celebrate the end of “Malfunction Junction” through downtown Dayton later this year.
The massive rebuild of the highway could be completed by Sept. 1 — a year ahead of schedule.
The Ohio Department of Transportation launched the start of the 2016 construction season Tuesday, saying it’s confident that the I-75 reconstruction will be completed early and $1 million under budget.
That’s a big relief for commuters who later this year won’t have to navigate the cramped traffic flow and lane-hopping that occurs when exits and entrances are spaced close together. When work finishes, three through lanes will travel both north and south. The new highway will have longer ramps for easier mergers.
I-75 now carries 128,000 vehicles per day through Dayton. A quarter of the vehicles are trucks, a number that is well beyond the highway’s engineered capacity.
“It wasn’t built for that capacity,” Phil Parker, President of the Dayton Area Chamber of Commerce. “This has been a real win win win project.”
When it is completed, Parker said the community will have to shed a phrase from the local vocabulary.
“From now on, we won’t refer to it as Malfunction Junction,” he said.
$3 million incentive
There are a couple of caveats. ODOT is hoping for good weather and no complications from unforeseen problems such as utility lines where they don’t expect them. But because progress to this point seems brisk, District 7 construction ddministrator David Ley is confident.
“It should get done in late fall,” he said. “We are hopeful we can make the Sept. 1 date.”
There’s a big incentive awaiting contractor Kokosing Construction Company if the job is completed early — a $3 million bonus. The company has earned incentive payments of $625,000 so far.
The final phase of the multi-year project began in 2012. By regional standards, it’s by far the largest, and longest-running, construction project in the area.
By the time the work finishes, $300 million will have been spent on five miles of interstate over nine years. This year will see work mostly on the northbound side of the highway with the pouring of concrete for bridge decks, the erection of parapet walls and striping.
Dayton Mayor Nan Whaley is eager for the job to finish this year.
“The citizens of Dayton are very excited to have new exits coming on and off,” she said.
Looking statewide, the 2016 orange barrel season will be a big one. Nearly $2.1 billion will be spent on Ohio’s transportation network this construction season. ODOT is planning 157 safety projects, improving 1,167 bridges and fixing 6,485 miles of pavement.
The news is not all good, though. In 2015, a record year with $2.5 billion in highway spending, the state also hit a decade-high in construction zone accidents.
ODOT Director Jerry Wray, speaking at a news conference beneath an I-75 overpass above Second Street, said there had been 6,000 crashes in work zones, 1,150 injuries and 30 fatalities in 2015. Most of those who died were drivers and passengers.
One of those fatalities was a construction contract worker who was killed in a crash last year in the Interstate 70 construction zone near Dayton International Airport.
“Please slow down and be careful in our work zones,” Wray said.
The speed limit in the I-75 zone through Dayton is 45 mph.
Other major I-75 work is progressing and on schedule, ODOT said. The work includes:
• Pavement work in Miami and Sheby counties that should finish in October.
• Rebuilding of drainage along the highway north of the Miami County line will continue to close lanes.
• The I-70 lane addition near Dayton International Airport in Englewood should move traffic into its final configuration by winter, with just finish-up work remaining.
Randy Chevalley, Deputy Director of District 7, implored drivers to slow down, eliminate distractions, and be alert in the construction zones.
“This year’s construction season is about to hit on all cylinders,” he said. “Construction workers will be behind a barrel. Stay alert. We want them to be able to go home to their families.”
Road project spending
How much the Ohio Department of Transportation will spend on District 7 projects this year, by county:
Auglaize: 9 projects, $6.3 million
Champaign: 3 projects, $3.2 million
Clark: 12 projects, $10.9 million
Darke: 8 projects, $4.7 million
Logan: 5 projects, $4.1 million
Mercer: 10 projects, $13.6 million
Miami: 8 projects, $8.2 million
Montgomery: 29 projects, $52 million
Shelby: 7 projects, $4.2 million
ODOT’s big jobs
Auglaize — State Route 66 resurfacing and asphalt concrete, St. Marys, State Route 29 to Shipman Road, $2.4 million; State Route 29, microsurfacing, State Route 29 from Celina to 2 miles east of State Route 67, $1.8 million.
Butler — U.S. 27, city of Oxford, major widening, $7.6 million; SR 4/40, Middletown, resurfacing, $789,000.
Champaign — State Route 4 and State Route 29, resurfacing, Mechanicsburg and Springfield, $2.3 million.
Clark — U.S. 68, Springfield U.S. 68 tributary of Mad River, Kenton Creek and Moores Run, polymer joints, $121,000; I-70, bridge overlay and repairs, I-70 at County Route 333 Dayton Springfield Road, I-70 at TR 146 Old Mill Road, I-70 at County Route 418 Repert Pike, $3.1 million; U.S. 40, realignment and widening intersection with ramps, intersection of SR 4/U.S. 40/U.S. 68, $3.1 million.
Darke — U.S. 36 and State Route 47, resurfacing concrete, from Indiana state line to SR 121, from Union City limit to Ansonia city limit, $2.3 million; State Route 49, resurfacing, from SR 49 to CR 34, from Arcanum Bears Mill Road to CR 51 Hogpath Road, $825,930.
Greene — U.S. 35, various pavement repairs, $2.2 million; U.S. 68, bridge repair, Shawnee Creek and Painters Creek, $1.3 million; U.S. 68/SR 235, resurfacing, $2.7 million.
Miami — I-75, multilane pavement rehab, from CR 25A to Shelby County, from Miami County to SR 29, $28.4 million; State Route 55, bridge repairs, SR 55 at the Great Miami River, SR 55 from CR 706 Water Street to CR 14, $1.7 million; I-75, structure repairs, I-75 at abandoned railroad, I-75 at CR 25A and I-75 at Great Miami River, $1.6 million.
Montgomery — I-70, addition of third lane, Englewood between SR 48 and Airport Access Road, $14 million; State Route 741, fix concrete and bridge repair, SR 741 from Moraine city limit to I-75, SR 741 at Conrail Railroad, GM access, $1.4 million; U.S. 35, resurfacing, from Preble County line to New Lebanon city limit, and from New Lebanon limit east to Union Road, $1 million; I-75 and U.S. 35, replace bridge deck, $2.6 million; County Route 350, and Municipal Route 43 and 163, Clayton’s Old Mill Road over Pigeye Creek, Miamisburg South Gebhart Road over Sycamore Creek, $2.1 million.
Preble — State Route 503, resurfacing, around Lewisburg, $3.8 million; State Route 122, resurfacing and bridge upgrades, triburary to Elk Creek and at Elk Creek, $1.5 million.
Warren — I-71/Jeremiah Morrow Bridge, bridge replacement, $88 million.