.@CityofElyria Mayor Holly Brinda first car to cross Ford Road bridge. pic.twitter.com/X4cKKMrXPE
— Lisa (@LisaRobersonCT) November 15, 2013
ELYRIA — Mayor Holly Brinda did the honors.
First, along with more than a dozen city and state officials and contractors, she grabbed scissors to ceremoniously cut the ribbon to open the Ford Road bridge. Then, Brinda hopped in her car and was the first to drive over the newly built, double-lane bridge.
It’s been a long time since December 2008 when an independent report cited 16 recommendations on how to repair the old bridge, and a consultant subsequently advised city officials to close it down.
That decision started the long and arduous process of determining how to pay for a new bridge and when it could be done.
“It’s been a long five years,” Brinda said moments before the bridge opened. “We can now go over the river and through the woods again.”
The sentiment was more than appropriate — the bridge spans the Black River and is near both High Meadows and Bur Oak picnic areas of the Black River Reservation of the Lorain County Metro Parks. Friday’s backdrop included views of fall foliage and the river below.
But in Brinda’s mind, where connecting the neighborhoods and business district is a key priority, the new bridge is of major importance in the city. The previous bridge was the unofficial link between the Midway Mall area and the north side of the city.
“I don’t think we realized what it meant until it went away. It is the gateway to so many things,” Brinda said.
City Engineer Tim Ujvari said the new bridge is such an improvement over the former that residents should be OK with the wait. Gone are the hairpin turn, the second guessing when you should go on the single-lane span and hoping a driver on the other end is not thinking the same thing, and the periodic shutdown of the bridge because it was under water.
“You might go through the woods, but you won’t have to drive through water again,” he said. “The Fire Department will be able to use this bridge. They couldn’t with the other one because of the load capacity.”
The bridge was built by J.D. Williamson, a Tallmadge company that specializes in smaller bridges. The $3.1-million project was funded with $2.5 million from the Ohio Department of Transportation bridge fund, as well as money from the Ohio Public Works Commission.
Allen Biehl, ODOT’s District 3 deputy director, credit Brinda with fast tracking the project once she came into office in 2012. In less than two years, she secured funding, had it designed, engineered, bid out and constructed — a quick pace for such projects.
“This is a mayor who understands its all about getting things done,” he said.
The next Elyria and ODOT collaboration project will kick off in the spring — the $28.8 million state Route 57/49th Street bridge reconfiguration project.