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Maumee River Crossing Project Uses Education to Build Engineers of the Future
Michael Siffer, ASHE NW Ohio Secretary

The Maumee River Crossing represents the largest, most expensive single project undertaken in the history of the Ohio Department of Transportation (ODOT). Fru-Con Construction Corporation, of Baldwin, Missouri, has been awarded the contract. Fru-Con Construction’s bid was $219,996,000. The new crossing, when complete in fall of 2005, will carry six lanes of traffic on I-280 over the Maumee River, with Interstate reconstruction extending 3.8 miles through East and North Toledo, Ohio. The surface of the roadway will reach about 130 feet high near the center of the river. The new bridge replaces a lift span that results in regular traffic delays during the shipping season.

Citizens in northwest Ohio are working with ODOT, a Project Management Consultant (PMC) team led by HNTB Corporation, and the Maumee River Crossing Task Force (MRCTF) to design and construct a new cable-stayed bridge structure and its accompanying roadway approaches.

In keeping with this commitment, ODOT, the MRCTF, and Project Management Consultant have implemented an extensive community outreach program. The Education Committee of the MRCTF leads part of this outreach. State Senator Linda Furney and Theresa Morris, staff assistant for Congresswoman Marcy Kaptur and board member of the Toledo Youth Commission, chair the committee. This committee consists of working groups focused on educating the community, young and old, about the project.

The Teacher Resources Working Group, in cooperation with the Arts Commission of Greater Toledo, has created the “Discovering Bridges” loan box program for junior high school teachers. This collection of resources was put together to inspire the youth of our community by challenging their curiosity and imagination about the bridge being built. Contents of the loan boxes include reference materials that cover traditional curriculum subjects such as poetry, art, science, math and history. Cross-disciplinary activities are included to put students in the roles of people that work on the project. The activities are a great lesson of responsibility for the up and coming engineers. The loan boxes are also full of visuals, including models, maps, videos, books, posters and much more. Representatives of ODOT and the MRCTF introduced the boxes at a free introductory workshop on August 2002 at the Main Library in Downtown Toledo. The boxes are available at various locations around the community including the Toledo Museum of Art, the Toledo-Lucas County Public Library and WGTE, Toledo’s public broadcasting station. The program has been very successful with loan boxes put to use in schools all over Northwest Ohio and Southeast Michigan.

The Job Shadowing Working Group has founded a group known as “Bridge Blazers.” The Bridge Blazers are responsible for developing and implementing a program to teach high school students about bridge construction and build awareness of related careers in engineering and the construction trades. The nine-session program was implemented for the 2002-2003 school year. Various labor unions and professional organizations were involved in the program. Each session consisted of a field trip and related hands-on activities. The inaugural 2002-2003 program concluded with an awards banquet on May 3. How did the students enjoy the program? The fact that they all signed on for a second year says it all!

In addition to the work of the MRCTF, ODOT staff, in cooperation with Fru-Con, makes themselves available for presentations and project tours on an almost daily basis for groups interested in the project. General public tours are given on the first and third Fridays of every month. Interested parties can tour the field office, casting yard, cofferdam, drilled shaft and pier work areas of the project. The tours begin with a brief update and safety presentation at the field office and take about 2 - 2 1/2 hours. Each tour is geared as necessary for each audience.

Presentations have been made to numerous community groups both at the project site and around Toledo. The sessions consist of a general update on the project and individual sessions on Community Involvement, Aesthetics, Construction and Forces and Materials, depending on the interests of the group.

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