FOX19 Investigates: I-75 road repairs

(FOX19) - The days are longer and warmer, and one thing is certain: It's road construction season.

The short few months of the year when the Ohio Department of Transportation (ODOT) is able to dive into construction projects.

As parts of Interstate 75 undergo a facelift, you may wonder why it's taking so long, and why some areas have yet to be touched.

FOX19 Investigated why the road is in such bad shape, and why quick fixes are no longer an option.

The highway is no stranger to road work.

With construction plans in place through at least 2020, and hundreds of millions of dollars dedicated to the project, the biggest problem with I-75 is its age.

"It's too congested; they need to open it up," said Curtis Ashby, of Forest Park. "There are too many potholes and it's just not enough lanes for people to get by."

"As a highway, it's terrible," agreed Mark Von Stein, of Hamilton. "It's not enough lanes."

More than 30 years past its estimated lifespan, the road is long past rehabilitation and the focus now is total reconstruction.

"Interstate 75 was constructed in the 50s and 60s, and it's about 50 years old now," explained Joe Bassil, Highway Management Administrator for ODOT, District 8. "So as a roadway, it's reached its lifespan."

As the Ohio Department of Transportation focuses on what it has identified as priorities, miles of the roadway continue to deteriorate as heavy commuter and truck traffic continue to pound the road.

"What has increased the most actually is truck traffic," added Bassil. "And it's pretty visible. Interstate 75 carries probably between 150,000 to 180,000 vehicles per day and out of that we have about 15 percent, depending on the area, truck traffic."

All highways are designed with trucks in mind, but with its age, I-75 can no longer withstand the heavy traffic.

One loaded truck can do the same damage as 10,000 passenger cars.

"A car is about 3,000-4,000 pounds. A loaded truck is 80,000 pounds so there's a huge difference between the two, so that is a factor," said Bassil.

The most visible problems are potholes and patchy roads, and because of its age, trucks easily cause deep rutting where the tires run.

That rutting becomes a safety issue.

"It is dangerous in dry conditions, but it becomes extremely dangerous in wet conditions because you have created a flow for water to channel into," explained Bassil.

"It's out there," Von Stein said of the dangers. "Especially when it rains. You have to watch out. You have to give yourself leeway because you could hydroplane."

So why is the I-75 reconstruction going to take so long?

"The only stumbling block in that is the availability of funds," said Bassil.

ODOT is primarily funded by the gas tax, which despite rising gas prices, remains consistent and has not increased in more than five years.

Coupling that with more fuel efficient and electric powered cars, funding all of the major reconstruction is not possible unless spread out over many years.

"All of that combined, our resources have just stayed the same."

Bassil said ODOT is looking at other ways to generate funding without needing an increase in the gas tax.

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