ELYRIA – With the construction season quickly approaching, the Ohio Department of Transportation is making the final steps toward a project that they think could cut back on accidents and increase accessibility and tourism in Elyria.
At a press conference Thursday, ODOT District 3 Deputy Director Allen Biehl announced that the department will be putting out bids for a contract for the $22 million dollar project next week. After that, he said, the city will determine a start date for sometime this summer.
The project, typically called the 49th Street bridge project, will see a stretch of State Route 57 between the Ohio Turnpike and Interstate 90 configured to make the area safer and more accessible from the highway. The plan is to remove the 49th Street bridge, widen Route 57 and replace circular exit and entry ramps off the road with straight ramps, according to Biehl.
The road will remain open throughout the construction except for the final phase when the bridge will be taken down, Biehl said.
Mayor Holly Brinda said the project could cut back on accidents in a typically high-crash zone as well as bring in tourism and commerce to Midway Mall.
“It’s a bipartisan effort to do something wonderful for the community… remedying one of the highest crash zones in Ohio,” Brinda said.
The fact that the department is in the final phases of the project comes as a pleasant shock to Biehl who said the project was originally set to be completed years in the future. With the help of funding from Turnpike bond sales, the project was moved from a future possibility to an immediate reality.
“It is unbelievable,” Biehl said, thanking local people who take the Turnpike every day. For Biehl, the construction serves as a warm up project for larger undertakings in the near future.
ODOT plans to spend $2.5 billion dollars on transportation projects throughout the state this year – some of which will go to other LorainCounty projects. At least four bridges will be repaired including two on State Route 2 and two on Interstate 90.
However, the focus of the construction efforts in the county this year will be on the 49th Street bridge project, largely because of the effect it will have on the city.
“We know the long-term gain is successful for the community,” Brinda said.