This article is brought to you by The Bryan Times.
By Ron Osburn email@example.com
Apr 17, 2022
One of three sections of a pedestrian bridge for toll collectors was installed over the Ohio Turnpike at the new Westgate Toll Plaza, near Edon, during the early morning hours on Monday, April 11.
Photo courtesy of the Ohio Turnpike and Infrastructure Commission
Work has resumed this month on the $67 million Ohio Turnpike Westgate Toll Plaza 4 project, near Edon — one of a host of major turnpike construction projects planned for this year, the Ohio Turnpike and Infrastructure Commission (OTIC) announced recently.
The OTIC approved a $233 million capital budget for toll road modernization, pavement resurfacing or replacement, bridge replacement or repair and other projects in 2022.
The new Westgate Plaza, at milepost 3.6, north of Edon, is one of three toll plazas funded by the OTIC’s new, modernized toll collection system. It will allow both eastbound and westbound E-Z Pass customers to travel the full length of the Ohio Turnpike at highway speeds without stopping through open road tolling lanes. Non-E-Z Pass customers will exit the mainline and pay with cash or credit card at gated toll lanes.
Traffic accidents in the work zone became a daily occurrence even before construction officially started in July 2021, when Beaver Excavating Company, of Canton, began widening the westbound lanes with a full-depth excavation and pavement replacement from milepost 2.9 to milepost 7.2. That work was completed this past December.
Work on the eastbound lanes began this month and is expected to last through December 2022. It includes full-depth excavation and pavement replacement on the eastbound lanes from milepost 2.9 to 7.26, along with new ramps at the plaza at milepost 3.6.
Turnpike officials say traffic accidents on the turnpike and on the detour routes through West Unity, Montpelier and Pioneer should happen a lot less often this year than in 2021.
The Ohio State Highway Patrol told The Bryan Times earlier this year there were 120 accidents during the 138-day construction period in 2021. At one point, the OSHP staged a trooper at the scene with their cruiser lights activated 24/7.
“Most of the crashes that occurred in the work zone were assured clear distance violations, meaning drivers need to drive at an appropriate speed so they can stop their vehicle within the distance ahead of them” OSHP Sgt. Ryan Purpura said. “You have laws, you have lights flashing, you can do everything to make a work zone as safe as possible for the motoring public, but at some point, motorists have to take responsibility while behind the wheel.”
In 2023, pavement will be replaced from the Ohio-Indiana border to milepost 2.9, and the work includes the demolition of the current Westgate Toll Plaza at milepost 2.7, which has been in operation since 1999. TCS
The Westgate Toll Plaza and the new mainline toll plaza at milepost 211 in Newton Falls (Trumbull County) are part of the turnpike’s new Toll Collection System (TCS), which will modernize and improve the turnpike experience for both passenger car and commercial truck customers.
“We are about one year away from open road tolling on the Ohio Turnpike, which is scheduled to debut in spring 2023. Once complete, our E-ZPass customers will be able to travel the full length of the 241-mile Ohio Turnpike at highway speeds without stopping,” said Ferzan Ahmed, executive director of the OTIC. “Customers ... will continue to receive discounted toll rates when traveling through gateless E-ZPass entry and exit lanes. Motorists without E-ZPass will still have the option to exit the turnpike and pay their tolls with cash or credit card at gated toll lanes.”
The new mainline toll plaza at milepost 49 in Swanton (Fulton/Lucas counties), which was completed in 2021, is currently being used to test components of the new system. The existing mainline Eastgate Toll Plaza in New Springfield, at milepost 239 (Mahoning County), will be renovated to function like the three new mainline toll plazas.
In addition to the new toll plazas on the mainline, Toll Plaza 64 (Wood County) and Toll Plaza 152 (Lorain County) will both be expanded by the construction of concrete toll islands, toll booths and canopies and other structural work to relieve congestion during periods of high traffic volume.
Interestingly, Automatic Traffic Recorders (ATR), a camera system that can count and classify traffic along the mainline of the turnpike, are being installed at toll plazas 13, 25, 34 and 39 (Williams and Fulton counties) and toll plazas 215, 216, 218, 232 and 234 (Trumbull and Mahoning counties). Part of the ATR project, which costs $376,050 for the construction and the infrastructure components, began in 2021 and will be completed in March 2022, followed by hardware and software installation and system testing.
Weigh-in motion (WIM) systems, which involve pavement sensors to weigh trucks as they are driving at highway speeds and detect and enforce overweight vehicles, are being installed along the turnpike mainline in both eastbound and westbound directions at mileposts 79.8 and 141.1 (Ottawa and Lorain counties, respectively) and westbound at milepost 198.6 (Portage County). The project to install infrastructure components, which costs $3.7 million, began in 2021 and will be completed by March 2022, followed by system testing.
Conduent State and Local Solutions, Inc., based in Germantown, Maryland, was awarded the contract for the purchase, implementation and testing of the hardware and software to modernize the TCS, including the installation of the ATR and WIM systems equipment. The new technology will enable gateless low-speed conventional lanes and highway-speed open road tolling. The project began in 2021 and is expected to be completed in spring 2023.
As the nine-month construction season is set to begin, it’s also an opportunity to remind motorists about driving safely in and around work zones along the 241-mile Ohio Turnpike or any other roadway under construction.
“Raising awareness of work zone safety on behalf of our roadway crews, contractors and motorists during the construction season is a top priority,” Ahmed said. “When driving through work zones, it’s important for motorists to establish a safe following distance, maintain the work zone speed limit, pay attention to the signs, avoid distractions and be prepared to slow down or stop.” There were 1,443 vehicle crashes in work zones on the Ohio Turnpike from 2016-2020, averaging 289 crashes per year over the same five-year period, according to statistics provided by the Ohio Department of Public Safety.
“Speeding in work zones is a primary cause of crashes,” Ahmed added. “The highway patrol will be conducting speed enforcement, including aerial enforcement, in work zones on the Ohio Turnpike during the construction season.”