August 29, 2014

Elyria
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State may take down bridge near mall in 2014

ELYRIA — The 49th Street Bridge — the one spanning state Route 57 by Midway Mall — could come down sooner rather than later.

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A year ago, Elyria Mayor Holly Brinda was being told the reconfiguration of Route 57, including the removal of the 49th Street Bridge, would be a project years in the making. But now that Gov. John Kasich has a plan to sell bonds supported by the Ohio Turnpike tolls to pay for road projects, the project is slated for 2014.

Brinda said she and city Engineer Tim Ujvari have been working with the Northeast Ohio Areawide Coordinating Agency and the Ohio Department of Transportation to move the project up on the schedule.

“Right now, we’re getting information that is a little more definite of when that project will possibly start,” Ujvari said. “A lot of it hinges on the bond mechanism that is being developed by the state. But we are being told the project will start August 2014, and the city is definitely in favor of that timetable.”

Ujvari said the project was being delayed because of funding. At a price tag of an estimated $31 million, the project will be funded with a combination of local, state and federal funds.

In 2012, ODOT announced it had overextended itself and would be delaying numerous projects across the state for several years while additional funding for millions of dollars in projects was secured. That meant the Elyria project was delayed indefinitely.

Currently, just $2 million has been committed to the project in the form of a Transportation Review Advisory Council grant awarded last year.

Ujvari said he learned of the pushed up date while reviewing the project plan with ODOT.

“We are always poking, prodding of when the project is going to start so we can know what our match could possibly be,” he said. “In early September, we were hearing 2015 and even that sounded optimistic. With this new funding mechanism, we’re hopeful we are going to be able to see the project come to fruition. I think it will revitalize that whole area. It will be a boon for the city of Elyria.”

Brinda sees the project as an economic development tool to drive interest in the Midway Mall area.

“Navigating that area is one of the things that’s holding our Midway Mall back,” she said.

The area where the work will be done straddles both Ward 2 and Ward 4.

Both Councilman Mark Craig, I-4th Ward, and Councilwoman Brenda Davis, D-2nd Ward, believe the work is long overdue.

“I think everyone agrees the project needs to be done to slow that area down and make it more user friendly,” Craig said. “I know when I first came to this area I was confused because it felt like you were getting off one freeway and getting on another.”

Improving the interchange has been under consideration for years, almost since ODOT did its last major work there in 2002.

ODOT officials believe that by removing the bridge, creating intersections instead of a confusing series of on-ramps and doing other fixes, the design will better deal with some of the safety issues of the area.

Contact Lisa Roberson at 329-7121 or lroberson@chroniclet.com.