ELYRIA — When barricades went up in front of the Ford Road bridge in December 2008, city officials knew it would be several years before the road reopened again.
It appears that this year will be that year.
Today, city officials will unseal bids contractors have submitted in hopes of securing the estimated $3.1 million project. City Engineer Tim Ujvari said a contract will be awarded as soon as possible with construction to start in several weeks.
“I think right now everyone is optimistic about getting the project started and eager to see it under way,” he said.
Ujvari said the timetable for the project, which includes building a completely new bridge and realigning Ford Road, is roughly one year.
“But, if everything goes well, it could be open by late fall, early winter,” he said.
The new bridge will be built downstream of the existing one-lane bridge, which has spanned the Black River and has been a crossing point between Midway Boulevard and Gulf Road since 1953. When it closed more than four years ago, the bridge was in such poor condition a report noted 16 areas that needed to be repaired. The asphalt was wearing, with numerous chips and cracks. Also, the deck expansion joints leaked onto the steel structure, and loose joints exaggerated a vehicle’s impact on the bridge, among other notations.
Ujvari said the total cost of the new bridge would be approximately $3.1 million and is being funded with $2.5 million from the Ohio Department of Transportation’s Ohio Municipal Bridge Fund and money from the Ohio Public Works Commission.
While the small bridge is not a main artery, it does help residents and travelers navigate the area, said Mayor Holy Brinda. On a typical day, using the bridge cuts about 12 minutes of travel when driving between the northeast side and northwest side of the city.
“We actual get an awful lot of phone calls from people who use the bridge and are very interested in seeing it reopen,” she said. “It had become a means of convenience in the city.”
Brinda said the project had been on her to-do list from the beginning. The bridge is often the route shoppers from the northeast side of the city take to get to Midway Mall. It is no coincidence, she said, that the retail economy declined when the bridge closed.
Councilman Mark Craig, I-4th Ward, said he believes the bridge closure really affected businesses on West River Road North.
“Many people had contacted me when it was shut down, telling me how they used to go to Bur Oak and then head over to the mall area,” he said. “Many other residents were upset because they no longer could avoid traffic areas by going the ‘back way.’ It will be nice to have it opened again.”
NOACA gives $2.27 million for Middle Avenue
The Northeast Ohio Areawide Coordinating Agency has awarded Elyria $2.27 million toward the Middle Avenue Corridor project, which city officials said has the potential to revive the south side.
The project is still at least a year away but is picking up steam as city officials continue to piece together funding and determine the full scope of the project. A tentative start date of May 2014 has been set, which is huge for a project that has been shelved several times.
Mayor Holly Brinda said the project has been on the city’s wish list for a long time. It fits into the revitalization strategy for the downtown area.
“Middle Avenue is the corridor that links central Elyria to the south side of Elyria,” Brinda said. “We think Middle Avenue is important to connect those two areas. In order for the downtown to be successful, the neighborhoods connecting to downtown have to be successful.”
Councilman Marcus Madison, D-5th Ward, said the project will be a great opportunity to build up the ward.
“Middle Avenue, I would say, is the glue that holds this ward together,” he said. “If we are able to play our cards right, we will be able to grow the neighborhood and connect it to downtown.”
He envisions businesses will want to relocate on a new road with improved amenities.
City Engineer Tim Ujvari said the original scope of the project includes replacing the boulevard medians and resurfacing the road from Broad Street to Oberlin Avenue. But if the city can secure additional money, which it is trying to do, more work will be incorporated.
“It all comes down to money,” he said.
Madison said he would love to see landscaping, new sidewalks and new lighting along the thoroughfare. Additional infrastructure needs are being looked at as well.
In 2012, several blocks of the street were dug up so new water lines could be placed under the road. However, those new lines did not extend the entire stretch of the road. Ujvari said if the city can find the additional funding, work on the water and sewer lines could be added to the project.
“We don’t want to create a beautiful street and then have to tear it up to put down water lines,” Brinda said.
As the work gets closer to a reality, public meetings will be held to get the input of residents, Madison said.
“We definitely want to see what residents want from this project,” he said.
Contact Lisa Roberson at 329-7121 or firstname.lastname@example.org.