Clear sailing on I-70 East

MORRISTOWN-A $24 million Ohio Department of Transportation project is winding down in Belmont County. Eastbound lanes on Interstate 70 finally opened this past week for daytime travel after 18 months of construction, though there may be some minimal lane restrictions in effect while crews work on bridges and the median. Westbound lanes opened the first of the year.

This particular five-mile stretch on either side of Exit 208 was considered to be in “the worst condition” on I-70, according to ODOT officials. Crews replaced the 46-year old stretch with nine inches of concrete over an asphalt bed in a process called “white topping,” which is expected to last for the next 20 years with little maintenance.

Jim Graham, an ODOT construction engineer, said that concrete is more durable than asphalt on high-traffic interstates used by heavy vehicles at high speeds. An estimated 40,000 to 50,000 vehicles travel through the area on I-70 daily.

Columbus-based Kokosing Construction won the construction bid and has had 30 to 60 workers on the project on any given day according to ODOT Project Engineer Pat Albarano. By the end of the project an estimated 100,000 man hours will have been spent, not including indirect hours by sub-contractors and suppliers. Funded mainly through federal stimulus dollars, this was part of $136 million worth of state road construction in District 11 during the past two years. District 11 covers seven counties: Belmont, Carroll, Columbiana, Harrison, Holmes, Jefferson and Tuscarawas.

Revamping four bridges (two in each direction) and two rest areas is also included in the project. The westbound rest area opened earlier this year. The rest areas are part of the “America’s Energy Gateway” initiative, converting out-dated facilities to energy-efficient technologies. When the project is done, both sites will have been gutted and reconstructed with new lighting, new electrical and plumbing systems, electrical vehicle charging equipment and educational kiosks with information on energy efficiency. Colaianni Construction of Dillonvale is doing the work on the rest areas.

Albarano said the eastbound rest area construction will be over by Oct. 31. Crews will still be working on the bridges, a drainage system in the median and striping until the middle of November. He added that ODOT says “thank you for your patience” during the project.

“Overall, the construction hasn’t been a real problem for us. It’s gone smoothly,” said Sgt. Jason Greenwood of the Ohio State Highway Patrol. He cautioned drivers that the speed limit is still 55 miles per hour through the zone until the construction is over and the lane restrictions are lifted.

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