AVON — Ground was broken Thursday on the $18 million Nagel Road/Interstate 90 interchange that should help relieve congestion at nearby exits and spur development near the new interchange.
Construction on the Cleveland Clinic’s $93 million Avon Family Health and Surgery Center already is well under way and additional projects are expected near the interchange, said Avon Mayor Jim Smith.
“We’re creating jobs,” Smith told the crowd that gathered at Petitti Garden Center for the groundbreaking. “We’re creating a lot of jobs here.”
Smith joked that he lost about half his hair during planning for the interchange, which took about 16 years.
“We jumped more hurdles than Harrison Dillard did when he went to the Olympics,” Smith said.
Construction of the interchange is expected to take 18 months, and it is slated to open in early 2013.
Among the issues that complicated the project was its funding.
An initial plan to assess property owners in the area for some of the costs associated with the interchange was scrapped after opposition from people who said they did not want the interchange or the assessments.
Instead, the interchange is being funded by Avon in partnership with the Richard E. Jacobs Group LLC, which is developing land in the area and is contributing a third of the cost.
The state biennial budget gives the state the authority to enter into similar private-public partnerships on road projects, said Michael Cope, assistant director for business and human resources for the Ohio Department of Transportation.
Don Damyanic, the construction manager hired by the city to coordinate the interchange, said the construction contract with Mosser Construction of Fremont was a little more than $16 million.
Damyanic said there is “a substantial amount” of additional work to be done including moving sanitary and water lines as well as gas lines, and the total cost of construction will likely be about $18 million.
Earlier this year, Avon Council approved a plan to sell $23.1 million in municipal bonds to fund the interchange which would be paid off in 25 years.
The Jacobs group sold the land to the Cleveland Clinic for its new facility and it still owns about 300 acres in the area, mostly on the north side of I-90, according to James F. Eppele, the group’s vice president of development.
When asked whether a hotel or other major facility might locate in the area, Eppele said, “You could see a lot of different uses over time.”
“It’s already a very strong growth area,” Eppele said during a break in the ceremony.
While there are no road closures currently in place, the city expects the contractor close the Nagel Road bridge over I-90 on Sept. 28, Damyanic said.
During his remarks to the crowd, Smith stressed that no public money was going toward the construction, although ODOT will be overseeing the project because it involves interstate access.
Without mentioning Elyria Mayor Bill Grace by name, Smith criticized Elyria’s decision to include roses and other landscaping in its recent reconstruction of state Route 57, a project that was funded largely by state and federal money.
Smith told the crowd he thought the roses and other plantings on Route 57 would eventually have to be removed “because they’re not being taken care of.”
“If I seem a little bitter, I am,” Smith said.
After his speech, Smith offered no apology for the verbal attack.
“He (Grace) tried to stop this project,” Smith said. “How many jobs did those roses create?”
Grace, who did not attend the ceremony, said later that he did not want to get into “a sparring match” with Smith and declined to talk about why he opposed the Nagel/I-90 interchange.
However, Grace defended the landscaping on the Route 57 project, saying it included hundreds of trees and thousands of bushes.
“There’s a national emphasis on landscaping in highway projects,” Grace said, adding that the city would have been “foolish” to reject funding for it.
Grace said the landscaping on Route 57 cost about $500,000 and the city picked up 10 percent of that cost or about $50,000. City crews have been caring for the landscaping, and there has been minimal loss, he said.
Contact Cindy Leise at 329-7245 or email@example.com.