BY DAVID ECK
FRANKLIN -- Sometimes getting there is the hard part.
That's the feeling of business owners and truck drivers who deal daily with construction to widen Ohio 123 at Interstate 75 on the outskirts of Franklin.
They are looking forward to the road being widened from two lanes to five, but dodging orange barrels for more than a year has worn on them.
"It's just taken so long and it really has hurt our business," said Cathy Cattani, who manages the Citgo Truck Plaza east of I-75. "It'll be a good thing when it's completed."
Truck drivers use citizens band radios to warn one other about backups in the area. B. Hall, a national driver for Thomas Trucking in Pleasant Ridge who has been stopping at the truck plaza for years, said truckers tend to shy away from the exit because of the congestion.
"It's hard to get in and out," he said. "On Fridays it's terrible. It's on the CB every day."
Ms. Cattani estimates her business is down 30 percent.
"Who knows how long it will take to get our customers back?" she said. "There are no benefits as of this time, but there will be."
The $5.1 million project, paid for mostly with state and federal money, will bring the road to five lanes on either side of the interstate, add left-turn lanes and upgrade traffic lights. It should be finished in late November, said Larry Weisman, construction engineer for the Ohio Department of Transportation.
"It really will help this area, especially with all the trucks in the area," he said. "It should relieve a lot of the congestion."
The left-turn lanes have helped eliminate backups that occurred on the exit ramp from northbound I-75, Franklin City Manager James Lucas said. Before, traffic would back up on the ramp as drivers waited to turn left.
"I think it's been better now than it was before," he said. "The delays before were outrageous, sometimes. It will be a lot easier to get through that whole area."
Mr. Weisman said the contractor, Fort Defiance Construction of Defiance, Ohio, has been working to complete the project on time. "There have been times they've even worked day and night there," he said. "There was some major drainage work that had to be done. The widening type jobs, there are a lot utilities that have to be relocated."
Franklin firefighters, who use the route every time they have a run on the interstate, said the improvements will make it easier for them to get down Ohio 123.
"It gives people a chance to move out of the way," firefighter Stu Dixon said.
Meantime, Ms. Cattani and her driver friends are eagerly looking forward to the last barrel leaving.
"We're hoping there will be a lot of benefits," she said. "The drivers talk on the CB and they say don't stop at exit 36 because it's a madhouse."