As construction of I-480 Bridge enters new phase it was long-term planning that made expansion possible

Published: Sep. 6, 2022 at 5:42 PM EDT
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CLEVELAND, Ohio (WOIO) - It was in the 1970′s and the recently built Outer Belt Freeway, better known as 480, built on either side of the Cuyahoga Valley, was in need of a connection over the Valley.

There is nothing simple about building a mile long stretch of bridge over a river valley, but Ohio Department of Transportation planners and engineers did more than just engineer the bridge itself and we should all be thankful for that today.

“There was a plan at that time to put a bridge in the middle that’s why they were spaced the way that they were,” said Amanda McFarland of ODOT.

When the original two, 480 bridges were built engineers left just enough space between the bridges to build a third, 4 lane bridge, in case, as expected, population surged in the surrounding suburbs and traffic increased in the area which is exactly what happened.

50 years later, an ODOT project included resurfacing the older bridges and building a new bridge, right between the old bridges adding 2 lanes of traffic in each direction.

“There isn’t much space between these bridges, it’s less than 2 feet on both sides of that center bridge,” McFarland said.

And now this project that started in the spring of 2018 is moving along, right on time, even through a pandemic and a global supply chain crisis.

Both of the older bridges have been re-surfaced and the new bridge has been built and now ODOT will begin a year long phase of building a barrier in the middle of the new bridge to separate east and west bound traffic, marking the pavement, putting up signs, and re-surfacing the transitions to the bridges.

The one mile long center bridge will carry two lanes of traffic, in each direction, as a bypass, to relieve congestion through the 77 interchange.

180,000 cars travel over the valley, every day, and soon that trip should be easier.

“I don’t think that bridge was ever intended to carry that many cars a day when it was built,” McFarland said.

But now 6 lanes in each direction should be able to handle the traffic flow and ease slow downs through one of the busiest areas in northeast Ohio, and all because enough thought was given 50 years ago to allow the space for another bridge to be built.