April 16, 2014

Elyria
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Ready to go: 49th Street bridge demolition nears final funding approval

The 49th Street bridge looking north. Bruce Bishop

The 49th Street bridge looking north.
Bruce Bishop

ELYRIA — The Ohio Department of Transportation announced Tuesday that it has nearly finalized plans to reconfigure the area of state Route 57 crossed by the 49th Street bridge.

With the project closer to being a reality than ever, ODOT and state and city leaders stood in the parking lot of the Ramada Inn nearby and lauded the progress that has been made this year to move the project along as cars zipped past an area that in less than a year will be dotted with orange barrels.

Allen Biehl, ODOT’s District 3 deputy director, said the project is “rounding third base and on its way home.”
“We will be out here spring of next year doing a groundbreaking, and I’m excited about that,” he said.

It’s no secret local leaders have long wanted to see the 49th Street bridge and all the confusing routes around it removed. The project was first proposed more than 10 years ago and since then has been held up by a lack of funding.

The improvements would include additional traffic lights, removal of the bridge, widening Route 57 from four to six lanes from Interstate 90 to the Ohio Turnpike, widening of Midway Boulevard to four lanes and removal of ramps to Griswold Road and Midway Boulevard.

Construction is almost a sure thing. The Transportation Review Advisory Council, an agency that guides the state in review and approval of ODOT’s biggest projects, has already preliminarily signed off on the project, and the Ohio Turnpike Commission is expected next month to approve it for funding through the sale of Turnpike bonds.

After final approval by the advisory council, the project will be a go.
“The state Route 57/49th Street bridge reconfiguration project is truly a testament to bipartisan teamwork on behalf of local state government to create an opportunity corridor for Lorain County,” said Mayor Holly Brinda. “Originally slated for completion in 2027, by working together through the Ohio Senate, ODOT and the Ohio Turnpike Commission, Elyria will now see the realization of a $28.8 million infrastructure project beginning in 2014.”

Moving the project up — made possible by the sale of Turnpike bonds at the suggestion of Gov. John Kasich — is a big deal.
“In our business, time is money,” Biehl said. “Every year we delay a project, the cost goes up dramatically, as does the cost of gasoline, asphalt and construction materials.”

Biehl said the Lorain County project is the one in his district that can get to market the fastest once the funding is in place.
“People talk about Cleveland’s Opportunity Corridor, but this is Lorain County’s,” Biehl said. “What this project will do is open this corridor for Midway Mall and all the businesses around it. In some ways this wall represents the great wall of divide in Elyria, and it’s time we changed that.”

Lorain County Commissioner Tom Williams, a former business owner in the area, said he can’t wait for the day detailed conversations about how to navigate the area will no longer be necessary.
“I know what it’s like to explain to customers how to get over the bridge,” he said.

State Sen. Gayle Manning, R-North Ridgeville and chair of the Transportation Committee, said the Elyria project was No. 1 on her priority list when Kasich first suggested financing infrastructure improvements through the sale of bonds.

“When the governor came to us and said, ‘We need to bond the Turnpike,’ I got it,” Manning said. “Without it, we would be doing this project years from now. Frankly, as a state, we were out of money.”

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

  • Tom

    Honestly, does anyone think this will have any impact on business in Elyria?

    • Robert Schofield

      Yes. For residents of the Elyria Township neighborhoods, we will now have to re-route routine shopping from Midway to Sheffield. Should be a boost for Sheffield.

    • agent5959

      As someone who lives right by this interchange, yes. To get to the mall from 90, you need to turn right FOUR times and go in a huge circle. Coming from my house up 57N, Arby’s was FIVE right turns… and now it’s closed. The area has a lot of promise, but navigating it is nearly impossible if you’re not a local.

      I’m questioning why Robert below will have to “re-route” because of a simplification of traffic flow. We’re removing several short, dangerous ramps, extra turns, extra travel time, and widening a busy road. This is a good call.

  • Jason M. Schmidt

    I highly doubt this will improve business. People are already willing to go out of their way to shop in Westlake and Avon. Crossing the bridge is just a minor inconvenience. Frankly, the Midway area has nothing to offer.

  • Scott Poledna

    I don’t believe it will increase business at all. I find it had to believe so many elected officials believe it will increase business to justify the expense. If they do not have the common sense to understand this is not the problem to the decline in business in and around the mall I would find it hard to vote for them. We need businesses in and around the area that will attract customers to the area. Our selection of store just will not do it. I worked 13 years at the Red Roof Inn at the bottom of the bridge…we had thousands of people come to the hotel each month from outside the area. They were able to find their way just fine. Especially today with smartphones and GPS if someone does not have the capacity to follow the signs they can have GPS guide them to XMS ( One of our make shift clothing stores in the mall ) or the Food Court that is 1/2 shut down. Lets get real. It will cost 20 + million in taxpayer dollars to make the changes. I find it hard to believe it will even bring in any increase in business. I understand it is not the best intersection in the world and some people may have to make 5 right turns to get to the place they want so go, but it is so not worth spending 20 million dollars to fix. Lets make Elyria better…Lets not waste the little money we have…We need to make good decisions with the money we have. If we continue to waste it like this I will not be able to vote for any tax renewals or increases with the fear the money will just be wasted.

  • ken

    this is a GREAT move! some people just HAVE to COMPLAIN! I can’t wait! when it’s done you will see how much better it is.

  • Naomi Kropp

    As someone who works on the west side of Griswold this is going to make a huge difference, should have been done decades ago! Its not just about mall traffic, its about making the industrial areas easier to access especially for tractor trailers(they’re also widening Griswold), making things easier to navigate and businesses more accessible and visible from 90 and 80; alot of people dont even know whats on the other side of that bridge if you get off on one side you dont even know how to get to the other. You HAVE to be a local to navigate it. The sad thing is if this would ve been done 10 years ago, it might’ve saved some businesses. This is an investment and I believe this is going to pay off eventually, it might not bring back the mall but it may bring in other business. Come on this is an area right between two major highways!

  • Daniel Sutter

    I assume they are going to have a intersection with traffic lights, six lanes on one side and four on the other. This sounds like a long light, slowing of traffic, and I don’t see any upsides except it will look prettier on the map. Wouldn’t it be great if we could use that money to stimulate business (not the Obama handouts) and use it to help grow this area.

  • red99cav

    Will this help Elyria? I don’t think so.