WESTFIELD TWP. — Orange barrels and transportation headaches could be a thing of the past at the interchange of Interstates 71 and 76 now that the biggest state road project in the area’s history is done.
Local and state officials gathered in the township to celebrate the completion of the four-year, $77.3 million project where Interstates 71 and 76 and U.S. Route 224 join.
This is the most expensive project by the Ohio Department of Transportation’s District 3, which includes Medina, Lorain, Ashland, Wayne and four other counties. John Hart, the district’s deputy director, said it’s also the most complex.
It involved constructing three ramps: one from I-76 eastbound to I-71 northbound, from I-76 eastbound to I-71 southbound, and from I-71 southbound to I-76 eastbound. Six ramp alignments also were built.
“Prior to the interchange modifications, drivers encountered dangerous mergers and bottlenecks,” Hart said.
Now, he said, there are “smooth-flowing ramps to every direction.”
The project also involved adding a third lane to about three miles of I-71. Now that it’s complete, the highway has three lanes from Cuyahoga County to Morrow County.
County Commissioner Steve Hambley said the project is important for the county.
“We’re one of those counties where over half of the people work outside the county every day. They’re traveling. They’re using this interstate. They’re using these interchanges. And they want to be safe,” he said.
U.S. Rep. John Boccieri, D-Alliance, who was the keynote speaker during Wednesday’s ribbon-cutting ceremony, said the project is also a powerful economic development tool.
“To compete globally, we’ve got to be able to move things quickly and move things on an infrastructure that allows the safe transit of not only people, but goods,” he said.
The project was awarded to Sharon Township’s Ruhlin Co. in August 2006 for $70.4 million. It started the next month, with an estimated completion date of July 31, 2010.
ODOT District 3 spokesman Brian Stacy said it’s impressive the project finished within days of that original targeted completion date. He said finishing that close to deadline is rare for even two-year projects.
“The fact that it has for a four-year project, it’s amazing,” he said.
The project came in about 10 percent over the original bid amount.
Contact Maria Kacik Kula at (330) 721-4049 or firstname.lastname@example.org.