Wooster wasn’t always w-i-d-e

Tim Sampson and Tim Sampson

All you have to do is turn off from the interstate and begin driving into town before you realize Bowling Green is a vastly different place than it was just a few short years ago.

The massive overhaul and widening of East Wooster Street has had a revitalizing effect that is becoming obvious now, two years after its completion. The project has not only eased traffic congestion, but has also helped attract new business to the area.

The narrow two-lane stretch of SR 64 that runs from Interstate-75 past the University and on into downtown Bowling Green was a traffic nightmare before construction began in April 2004.

‘Several of the intersections along that road wear near a failure point,’ said John Fawcett, municipal administrator for the city of Bowling Green. ‘It was like gridlock – Bowling Green style.’

In addition to widening Wooster Street to five lanes from I-75 to Mercer Road and to three lanes from Mercer to Enterprise Drive, designated entry lanes were constructed into various businesses along the street to better control traffic flow.

‘Now you hardly ever see any backups in that area anymore,’ said Dale Calcamuggio, Ohio Department of Transportation’s project manager for the overhaul.

In addition to completing the project for less than the initial $6 million estimate, construction was wrapped up in November 2004, nearly nine months ahead of schedule.

Calcamuggio credits the rapid completion to the decision to widen the entire 1.4 mile stretch of road all at once rather than working on it in several sections over a longer period of time.

‘It was a trade off,’ he said. ‘It was more construction going on at one time, but it was for a shorter amount of time.’

Perhaps the most visible change is not the road itself but the disappearance of the above ground utility lines that once dominated the Wooster Street skyline.

One of the project’s goals was to move all the power, telephone and cable lines underground for safety as well as aesthetic purposes.

‘In order to move all the utilities underground required a huge amount of coordination,’ said Andrea Voogd, public information officer for ODOT’s second district. ‘And it’s really paid off as far as modernizing that area.’

Fawcett eagerly praised Wooster Street’s new look.

‘Before, if you were to come off of I-75 and look westward, you just saw lots of vertical obstruction,’ Fawcett said. ‘Now when you take that same view you see a fairly pristine appearance of Bowling Green.’

According to Fawcett, this improved appearance is having a ripple effect on the entire area.

The transformation has helped to attract new businesses like Starbucks and Chipotle, and to encourage pre-existing businesses like McDonald’s and Taco Bell to undergo renovations in order to match their new surroundings, he said.

‘I think were seeing a reviving of that area of town – perhaps a resurgence of pride,’ Fawcett said.