October 21, 2014

Elyria
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North Ridgeville seeking funding for Center Ridge widening

NORTH RIDGEVILLE — City officials hope to clear the next big hurdle in their campaign to secure money for the long-anticipated widening of Center Ridge Road when they appear before a regional transportation group today.

City officials will travel to Akron for the meeting with the Transportation Advisory Committee, an Ohio Department of Transportation advisory group that oversees road projects and their budgets.

Mayor David Gillock said he didn’t foresee any problems with the group’s approval of preliminary engineering work, and a $1 million environmental study, which was paid for with a $900,000 ODOT grant and $100,000 from the city. These are required steps in the multiyear, $41.5 million project to east traffic congestion on the city’s major east-west traffic artery by widening a 2.3-mile stretch of Center Ridge Road from three to five lanes.

“Once you get ranked (on the agency’s schedule of projects), they (TRAC) are normally going to continue working with you,” Gillock said. “This is the next step in the approval process. We don’t anticipate any problems.”

An ODOT spokesman could not be reached for comment.

In addition to adding lanes between Stoney Ridge and Lear-Nagle Roads, a 6-foot-wide sidewalk would be built, along with a 10-foot walking and biking path on the south side of Center Ridge, more than half of which lacks sidewalks in the 2.3-mile stretch. The new sidewalks would increase safety for students walking to and from the city’s middle school, which is on Center Ridge just east of state Route 83.

A pair of access roads would also be added to ease traffic congestion.

Due to traffic congestion, Center Ridge Road has been deemed one of the most unsafe highways by ODOT’s District 3 offices in Ashland. The portion of Center Ridge Road — which also serves as state Route 20 — running through North Ridgeville is the only portion of the state highway between Elyria and Cleveland that remains a three-lane road.

Some 318 accidents occurred in the stretch to be improved between 2007 and 2009. Nearly half of those (155) occurred at intersections. Increased traffic congestion in the area has followed the city’s surging population growth, which rose from 21,564 in 1990 to 29,465 in 2010, according to census figures provided by the city.

The widening project is to be paid for with a combination of federal, state and local money. An estimated 70 percent of the costs, or roughly $28.7 million, would come from federal funds, according to figures from a Mansfield engineering firm undertaking the environmental study, Gillock said.

NOACA green-lighted the widening project in September 2010. NOACA deals with transportation and environmental planning and air and water quality issues across a five-county region encompassing Cuyahoga, Geauga, Lake, Lorain and Medina counties.

The city’s projected $12.7 million portion of the project would most likely be generated by a bond issue, income tax or street levy, according to the mayor.

“We’ve got several options we’re taking a look at,” Gillock said. “We could spread it (the city’s cost) out over 20 years. We may be able to get grants for some of that cost. We also get $250,000 a year in Ohio Public Works money. If we did that for 20 years, that would amount to $5 million in itself.”

Construction isn’t slated to occur before 2016 and 2017.

Contact Steve Fogarty at 329-7146 or sfogarty@chroniclet.com.