The gap between Fort Wayne, IN, and the Port of Toledo, OH, continues to get smaller thanks to the ambitious Fort to Port project. This multiyear, multiphased project, with a construction price tag quickly approaching a half-billion dollars, will ultimately transform U.S. 24 from two to four lanes all the way from Fort Wayne to Toledo.
Project officials say the transformation will create a safer, more efficient route. U.S. 24 is a key transportation artery, with trucks representing a third of the overall traffic. Realigning and expanding the highway is designed to alleviate concerns about the high mixture of truck traffic and residential traffic on this busy highway.
In addition to improving safety and mobility, the Fort to Port project will contribute greatly to economic development and job creation in Ohio and Indiana. The project will fulfill a long-time commitment by the two states, local governments, regional planning commissions, and citizens to upgrade U.S. 24. Efforts at improving the highway date back to 1962 when the Ohio Department of Highways, the predecessor to the Ohio Department of Transportation (ODOT), completed a preliminary engineering report of U.S. 24.
ODOT District 1 Construction Engineer Bruce Merry, P.E., a 39-year construction veteran, says the massive Fort to Port project marks a unique time in transportation in northwest Ohio, with many miles of construction under way at one time. In fact, approximately $425 million — including $230.7 million in ODOT District 1 — is being spent to improve 58 miles of U.S. 24.
District 1, which serves Allen, Defiance, Hancock, Hardin, Paulding, Putnam, Van Wert, and Wyandot counties, has been busy overseeing construction of four vital segments of the Fort to Port corridor, accounting for about 36 miles of new roadway and 27 new bridge structures.
E.S. Wagner Co., Oregon, OH, is wrapping up work on the first of the Fort to Port projects. This $36.7-million, 2.2-mile-long project, awarded in 2006, has involved expanding U.S. 24 into a four-lane, divided highway from just west of the city of Defiance to just east of State Route (SR) 15; replacing U.S. 24 bridges over the Maumee and Tiffin rivers; and rebuilding the interchange at SR 15 and U.S. 24, including a new structure over U.S. 24. Meanwhile, Miller Brothers Construction Inc., Archbold, OH, is making final touches to its work on the second U.S. 24 project in Defiance and Henry counties — the $49.5-million expansion of 11.7 miles of existing alignment from Defiance to Napoleon.
The first two Fort to Port projects "will finish for sure early this year," says Merry. "There is some paving yet to do, along with some grading and general cleanup work, but essentially those projects are complete."
Construction on two additional U.S. 24 sections in the district began in 2007 and are scheduled for completion late this year. Under a $71.7-million contract with ODOT, a joint venture of E.S. Wagner Co. and Anthony Allega Cement Contractor, Cleveland, is constructing a 10.7-mile section of new highway south of existing U.S. 24 from U.S. 127 to west of Defiance.
The Wagner/Allega project is 80-percent complete, with approximately 80 percent of the concrete pavement in place, says District 1 spokeswoman Rhonda Pees.
During a late February visit by Construction Digest, crews were setting beams for new twin structures over the CSX railroad and Baltimore Street west of Defiance. To erect the 26 prestressed concrete I-beams supplied by Prestressed Services LLC, Decatur, IN, crews used a 350-ton Grove hydraulic crane, rented from Jeffers Crane Service, and a 110-ton Link-Belt lattice boom crane to carefully lift each 61-ton, 116.5-foot-long beam into place.
East of the Wagner/Allega project, construction is proceeding on a $72.8-million, 12.3-mile section south of existing U.S. 24 from the Indiana line to U.S. 127. A joint venture of Beaver Excavating, Canton, OH, and Mosser Construction Inc., Fremont, OH, has completed 80 percent of the work that is scheduled for completion late this year, says Charlie Schroeder, P.E., P.S., transportation engineer for ODOT District 1.
He notes that 50 percent of the concrete pavement is in place. Paving the remainder of the project will comprise the majority of work, which will take place this year. All bridge and culvert work is essentially complete with some minor finish work remaining.
Approximately $196 million in construction is proceeding or is planned for the new U.S. 24 alignment in ODOT District 2, which covers Fulton, Henry, Lucas, Ottawa, Sandusky, Seneca, Williams, and Wood counties. Almost 22 miles of new highway will be constructed in this area.
According to District 2 spokeswoman Theresa Pollick, Miller Bros. Construction Inc., Archbold, OH — under a $47.9-million contract — began construction in June 2008 on a 5.11-mile segment of new U.S. 24 in Henry County that extends between the current U.S. 24 just east of Napoleon and the village of Texas. This phase, which features a new interchange at SR 109 and overpass at County Road 4A, is scheduled for completion in late 2011.
ODOT will begin construction this spring/summer on the eastern portion of the U.S. 24 project in District 2 — a 6.46-mile-long project located near the current U.S. 24 west of I-475, to Hertzfeld Road. Crews will work on building a new interchange at SR 64 and construct a tunnel located on the current westbound lanes of U.S. 24 near Dutch Road. This project is slated for completion in late 2011.
A third project in District 2 is expected to begin this summer in Henry and Lucas counties, tieing-in the area between Hertzfeld Road to Henry County Road 4A. Pollick says this 9.89-mile-long segment, which will include an interchange on SR 295, will open to traffic in late 2011. However, final completion is anticipated for late 2012.
A groundbreaking ceremony in April 2008 marked the start of the first of four phases on the 11-mile portion of the Fort to Port project in Indiana, extending from just east of Interstate 469 in New Haven to the Ohio line. The estimated cost of all phases is $170 million.
"We anticipate the construction completion for U.S. 24 by 2012," states KimberLee Parker, P.E., project management engineer in the Indiana Department of Transportation's (INDOT) Office of Project Management.
A variety of work is under way. Phase 4, designed by Lawson-Fisher Associates P.C., was let in April 2008 to Primco Inc., Fort Wayne, IN, for $10.9 million. This project extends from just west of Indiana 101 to the Ohio line.
Other contracts awarded include an environmental mitigation package designed by American Structurepoint that was awarded to Crider & Crider Inc., Bloomington, IN, for $340,000; and Phase 4A — designed by Lawson-Fisher Associates P.C. — awarded to Primco Inc. for $13.9 million.
Phase 3, designed by INDOT, was let March 11. Primco Inc., with a bid of $24.6 million, was the low bidder for this phase, which extends from 0.65-mile east of Webster Road to 0.5-mile west of SR 101.
According to Parker, the Indiana portion of new U.S. 24 will include two interchanges, one at SR 101 and one at Webster Road, and construction of 16 bridges.