Lane closures to begin on I-90 downtown for Innerbelt Bridge construction

Bridge construction closes lanes for up to a year

CLEVELAND - Jocelynn Clemings, spokesperson for the Ohio Department of Transportation (ODOT), has sage advice for the 138,000 motorists who use I-90 through Cleveland every day, "Opt for the alternate!"

Starting June 21, ODOT will close one westbound lane on I-90 between the I-77 exit ramp and the Ontario Street on ramp, leaving traffic to use just two lanes.

On July 4, eastbound I-90 will shrink from three to two lanes in the same area as the westbound closure—Ontario to the I-77 on ramp.

Both closures will last at least six months; however, the westbound closure may last up to a year.

The ‘alternate' Clemings spoke of is using I-77 to I-490, bypassing the construction zone. A second lane has been added to the I-77 ramps to ease the increased traffic that is expected to use the alternate route.

"We're definitely asking people to change their habits, said Clemings. "We're asking people to leave work a little earlier than you may have before or leave home a little earlier than you have before so we get people out of that typical rush hour."

ODOT said it hopes commuters will also use other alternates, as well, including carpooling, bicycles or RTA.

Much has been made of the upcoming closing of the Carnegie exit ramp to traffic from I-90. The ramp will remain open but only to traffic using the bypass.

As I-77 merges to I-90 eastbound, there will be a divider in place separating the four lanes of traffic. The left two lanes will be traffic coming east across the Innerbelt Bridge, which will not be able to access either the East 22nd ramp or the Carnegie ramp.

Simply put, only traffic using I-77 north to I-90 east will have access to the Carnegie or East 22nd exit ramps.

"We want people to use the alternate route, we want people to go 490 to 77, where you'll have direct access to both 22nd and Carnegie," said Clemings.

The alternate route will reappear during later phases of the construction project.

Construction of the new bridge is beginning to rise from the river valley next to the current bridge.

"We actually poured one of our first stems and that's the portion that will make up one of the long concrete columns," added Clemings.

That pour is taking place in ‘Pier 9' just west of West 3rd Street.

Clemings and other ODOT officials, along with representatives from Walsh Construction and HNTB Ohio, Inc., were part of a public information meeting at Massimo da Milano restaurant on Cleveland's west side Monday.

Drawings showing the lane closures and alternate route, along with a drawing of the new bridge routing, were on display.

The cold storage building at the west end of the bridge will take all summer to come down, piece by piece. It is being done by mechanical means and not by implosion.

The new Innerbelt Bridge is expected to be open in the fall of 2013.

Once the new five-lane bridge opens, all traffic -- east and westbound -- will shift onto that bridge until the existing bridge is taken down and a new eastbound span can be built in its place.

Although the new span will be five lanes, it is being built to accommodate six lanes of traffic while it acts as the only span crossing the Cuyahoga, with four lanes of westbound traffic and two lanes carrying traffic eastbound.

Clemings said to expect ramp changes between 2013 and the 2016 opening of the second bridge.

"During that bi-directional phase where all traffic is on the one new bridge… there will be some ramp changes, there will be some access changes, but we are a number of years from that," she said.

One ramp that will be missing during the bi-directional phase is the West 14th Street ramp from Tremont to I-90 eastbound, as there is no room for the ramp while the second Innerbelt Bridge is being built.

The second bridge will not be identical to the first bridge's design but will be very similar -- a ‘fraternal twin' an official from HNTB Ohio, Inc said.

Some downtown streets near the project will also change.

Broadway Avenue will be straightened to lose its diagonal status and sharp-angled intersections with East Ninth Street and East 14th.

Commercial Road, Canal Road and West Third streets in the Flats will change to allow better access for trucks.

Changes will also occur along Abbey Avenue and the Lorain-Carnegie Bridge to allow better access to downtown for motorists, pedestrians and cyclists.

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