ELYRIA — It’s the four-lane road that brings southern Elyrians into and out of downtown, but if you ask south-side residents, it is a major city thoroughfare that has seen only minor repairs.
Long before the new Elyria High School — a $70 million building sprawling across two city blocks — went up, the biggest economic investment the 5th Ward has seen in years, residents in the ward have waited patiently for a facelift for Middle Avenue. From a city standpoint, the sticking point has always been the funding.
Now it looks like the wait is over.
Funded through the Northeast Ohio Areawide Coordinating Agency, Ohio Department of Transportation, Ohio Public Works Commission and even a slice of the city’s windfall proceeds, a $3.6 million reconstruction project is set to commence later this year. City officials are ecstatic. Residents are cautiously optimistic.
“There is a lot of animosity from other people working on other projects on Middle Avenue that have been a disaster,” resident Theresa Shea said. “But now we are hearing things from this administration like under budget and on time when it comes to other projects. We can only hope.”
More than hope was on the agenda Thursday night as city officials detailed the project. Starting at Broad Street and stretching south to Oberlin-Elyria Road, the Middle Avenue plan promises to be more than just new pavement, although the original idea called for just that.
“It has evolved into this complete street concept that basically is a transportation development plan that addresses multi-modal traffic — cars, bicycles and pedestrians,” said city Engineer Tim Ujvari.
Ujvari and Project Engineer Kathy McKillips did their best to sell the project. There will be new curbs and curb ramps, a bike path, decorative light fixtures and the crumbling medians will be reconstructed. They said the road will take on a more boulevard-like look and feel.
It is something Mayor Holly Brinda said is long overdue.
“This is a major reconstruction project, so that is very good news,” she said.
Nonetheless, the meeting between residents and officials was tinged with skepticism. Middle Avenue resident have gone through a recent water line replacement project that can only be described as problematic.
“I think I can speak for all residents when I say that project produced a lot of resentment and frustration,” said Councilman Marcus Madison, D-5th Ward. “We thought it was going to be something good for the ward, and it turned out to be one problem after another. So I think they are just looking for a little reassurance that it won’t happen again.”
Safety Service Director Mary Siwierka did not mince words when she admitted the biggest problems of that particular project.
“The Middle Avenue water line project was a nightmare,” she said. “The lesson we learned there was the lowest bidder is not always the best bidder.”
Ujvari said the aim with this project is to give residents more opportunities to voice their concerns and be a part of the process.
“These things take time, but this will be a great project for the city when it is completed,” he said.
Bids received for project: August, September
Contract awarded: September, October
Construction: November 2014 – July 2015
- Milling and repaving of deteriorated asphalt.
- Performing full depth pavement repairs as needed.
- Removal and reconstruction of the curbed median/boulevard.
- Replace deteriorated curb sections and curb ramps per American Disabilities Act standards.
- Crosswalk improvements.
- Replacing traffic signals with new updated signals and removal of 11th Street traffic signal.
- Replacing and upgrading street lighting.
- Providing bike lanes.
- Limited removal of on-street parking between Seventh and 16th streets to accommodate bike lanes.
- Limited drainage improvements.