GRAFTON — Sometime this month, work is scheduled to begin on a project that will widen state Route 57 from two to three lanes.
Designed to improve traffic flow through a mile-plus stretch of Route 57 dotted by numerous businesses in the village, some owners and managers of those businesses have doubts about the work.
One is Houssain Mishkin, owner of Harvest Cafe, a popular restaurant just north of the village’s CSX railroad tracks at the southern end of the project area.
“I never saw where we needed this,” Mishkin said. “They’re wasting $4.2 million as far as I can see.”
Mishkin worries about the project’s impact on his business, which already has dipped due to the unusually harsh winter. The widening is expected to take about eight feet of the restaurant’s parking lot, he said.
“Any place there’s construction, less people go,” Mishkin said. “People see those orange cones and they pass by. It’s less hassle to go somewhere else.”
The project is expected to take an average of 10 feet of right-of-way on both sides of Route 57, according to Deputy County Engineer Bob Klaiber.
The project will take in approximately 6,400 feet from Barrington Drive, the entrance to the new Barrington Park housing development, south to the CSX tracks. Barrington Drive is just north of the village limits in Eaton Township.
A contract for the work was awarded a few weeks ago by the Lorain County Engineer’s Office to the Shelly Co. of Twinsburg in the amount of $4.2 million. The village used state money to purchase land needed for right-of-way.
The county engineer’s office will hold a public meeting on the project 7 to 9 p.m. April 16.
“We’re not required to do this, but we like to give businesspeople and others the chance to meet the contractors to give them a general idea of what will happen during construction,” Deputy County Engineer Bob Klaiber said.
Joe Campolo, manager of the Federated Auto Parts store next to the McDonald’s, shared Mishkin’s opinion that the widening isn’t really needed because the village doesn’t routinely contend with heavy traffic.
He also is concerned about the headaches construction will pose daily for the continuous flow of delivery trucks trying to get in and out of his parking lot.
“It’s going to slow down business for us for sure,” Campolo said.
The parts shop services auto garages in Elyria, North Ridgeville, Avon and other communities. Campolo figures to add another driver to compensate for delays in deliveries.
“We have three drivers now and they’re leaving every 10 minutes,” he said.
Mishkin praised Mayor Megan Flanigan for her efforts to retool the project on behalf of local businesses and the village.
“Megan knows how we feel,” Mishkin said.
Flanigan could not be reached Wednesday by phone, email or social media.
Klaiber acknowledged that major roadwork through business areas almost always has a negative impact — even on a temporary basis.
“These are disruptive projects,” Klaiber said. “We could try and paint a nicer picture, but anytime you are tearing up the road and making significant changes, there’s going to be congestion for a while.”
Klaiber noted the project has had its share of supporters and detractors.
Not all businesses will be seriously affected by the roadwork, according to Dave Wildenheim, owner of Sparkle Market, one of the bigger stores within the work zone.
Wildenheim figures to lose about eight parking spaces in front of his supermarket. But due to the fact the store has a large side parking area, that won’t prove to be a major problem.
He said he thinks the third lane may make it easier for traffic to turn out onto Route 57 from his business, especially in the afternoon.
“Maybe a couple of traffic lights could have handled this, but I don’t know,” Wildenheim said. “I’m not an engineer.”
Expected to be finished by the end of 2014, the project is 80 percent federally funded. The remaining 20 percent will be provided from Ohio Public Works Commission, which funds public infrastructure projects, and the village of Grafton.
Local traffic will be maintained during construction.