HANCOCK COUNTY, OH (WTOL) - Though preliminary work has already begun for the I-75 widening project in Hancock County, ODOT officially kicked-off construction of the last stretch of the project.
ODOT is now informing drivers the construction will effect them for the next three years. But once work is complete, I-75 will have three lanes between Findlay and Toledo.
This project comes as more commercial and private traffic are utilizing the corridor.
"We're starting to see an increase in traffic from the Columbus-area into Toledo and on into the Michigan-area," said ODOT District 1 Deputy Director Kirk Slusher. 'It's a major corridor. And for us to be able to address those needs now is a big part of what we're doing."
The project also comes as aging infrastructure has become a serious safety concern with asphalt and bridge failures becoming more common.
"They didn't anticipate the amount of traffic and the loads that we see now," construction project engineer Chris Hughes. "So, it's going to be reconstructed to full modern design standards which includes nice wide shoulders and the pavement is going to be built to last."
The majority of this year's construction will occur on I-75 north of the Blanchard River. Traffic shifts should be expected within the next three weeks, while ramp closure will not happen for awhile.
"There will be impacts to traffic. We will keep two lanes of traffic in each direction for the most part," said Slusher.
And the drive to and from Wyandot County and the Columbus-area will be impacted the most.
One of the largest portions of the I-75 project in Hancock County is the complete reconstruction of the 68/15 interchange. And once it's finished, it will completely change how traffic flows from the interstate to the highways. Currently the interchange is a straightforward, but slow exchange from I-75 to the combined highway.
ODOT's plan is to add multiple new exit and on ramps to the interchange.
"This was built back in the 50's and here we are 60, 70 years later and it needs to be replaced," Slusher said.
As part of the upgrades, the construction will also revamp the interchange at Lima Avenue as well. A new double roundabout will help keep traffic moving, while also making it easier for drivers to get from Lima Avenue to I-75.
"One of the key components to that is getting the Lima Avenue entrance and exits off of U.S. 68. And those entrance and exit movements will directly to and from I-75 without first having to merge onto U.S. 68, State Route 15," said Hughes.
The northbound I-75 to southbound 68/15 ramp will close in May for the duration of the three-year construction.
Work won't fully begin at the interchange until next year.