Thursday, July 27, 2000

I-71 lanes will ease congestion

By Cindi Andrews
The Cincinnati Enquirer

        MASON — Crews will finish opening three lanes of Interstate 71 both directions between the Fields Ertel Road and Western Row exits today, just a week before a pro tennis tournament begins and at the height of the Paramount's Kings Island season.

        The news came as a pleasant surprise to officials of the Tennis Masters Series tournament, which will feature Pete Sampras, Andre Agassi and Michael Chang, among others. Play starts Aug. 3.

        “Obviously, it's great,” said Bruce Flory, the tournament director. “It helps flow the traffic out of the site.”

        Work started in July 1999 to expand the interstate from two lanes to three, both northbound and southbound from Western Row Road to just south of Interstate 275.

        The final section of the project — southbound from Western Row to Fields Ertel Road — will open today, the Ohio Department of Transportation said Wednesday. Three lanes already are open along the rest of the 7.6-mile project.

        Although the lanes are opening, the $32.3 million project is not finished, ODOT spokeswoman Kim Patton said. The final layer of asphalt likely will be laid at night to minimize the effect on traffic. That and work on bridges and walls likely will be finished by the end of the year, she said.

        Commuter Michael Hammond, a Mason Chamber of Commerce official who lives in Deer Park, welcomed completion of the lanes.

        “That sounds really good to me,” Mr. Hammond said. “It's had days when things got really jammed up. ... (But crews) did a pretty good job considering what they had to work with.”

        David Mandt, a Kings Island spokesman, agreed that construction caused few problems. He praised project officials for keeping two lanes open each way most of the time and doing a lot of work at night.

        The work is ahead of schedule because of last year's dry summer and warm fall, Ms. Patton said. Construction engineer Larry Weisman also credited the Cincinnati-based contractor, the John R. Jurgensen Co., for the speed of the work.

        The section had been scheduled for completion in July 2001.

        Work on widening another section of I-71 — from Western Row Road north to Ohio 48 — to three lanes began in April and is expected to finish next summer, Ms. Patton said.


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