August 28, 2014

Elyria
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Interchange ordeal sours some on NOACA

ELYRIA — The fighting over Avon’s new Interstate 90 interchange, approved Friday by the Northeast Ohio Areawide Coordinating Agency, almost tore the regional transportation planning organization apart.

It still might.

Lorain County Commissioners Betty Blair and Ted Kalo, who serve on the NOACA board, threatened earlier this week to pull the county out of the agency if the interchange wasn’t approved, saying they were being held hostage by Cuyahoga County officials who had threatened to effectively veto the interchange if their demands for a revenue-sharing agreement weren’t met.

A compromise revenue-sharing agreement was reached after last-minute negotiations Thursday between Avon and Cleveland-area officials, but the anger over how the deal came about remains.

“It didn’t feel good, it didn’t taste good, but it’s done,” Kalo said.

Longtime NOACA proponent Blair said she thinks the county should continue to look at leaving NOACA, particularly since Avon and the Richard E. Jacobs Group is footing the bill for the interchange.

“I have concerns about people that have input on something they aren’t putting any money into,” she said.

Although not a NOACA board member, Avon Mayor Jim Smith said the experience of getting the interchange approved has left him soured on the agency and believes the rift will lead to the agency’s demise.

“I think it’s going to happen,” he said.

Avon Lake Mayor Rob Berner, who does serve on the NOACA board, said revenue sharing shouldn’t have had anything to do with what ultimately was a decision that should have been about much needed traffic flow improvement.

“The Northeast Ohio counties need to start looking for a way to improve how we do things,” he said.

Elyria Mayor Bill Grace, a critic of the new interchange, said leaving NOACA to join with a smaller but similar organization in Erie County as some have suggested wouldn’t be in Lorain County’s best interests.

“I think it would be a grave mistake,” he said. “We are extensively interwoven, Lorain County with Greater Cleveland.”

Cuyahoga County Commissioner Peter Lawson Jones said he understands the anger that the smaller counties involved in NOACA have over the revenue-sharing agreement and how it was reached. They’re just trying to do what’s best for their residents, as is he, Jones said.

He doubts, however, that the interchange fight will spell the end of NOACA.

“Right now, there might be some people ready to go, but I think after they cool down they won’t feel that way,” Jones said.

Contact Brad Dicken at 329-7147 or bdicken@chroniclet.com.