December 21, 2014

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Planned Route 57 widening sparks debate in Grafton

Robert Klaiber, assistant county engineer, right, speaks at a public hearing on the state Route 57 widening and reconstruction project. Also pictured are Ray Bencivengo, center, construction services manager, and Patrick Pijo of the Ohio Department of Transportation. STEVE MANHEIM/CHRONICLE

Robert Klaiber, assistant county engineer, right, speaks at a public hearing on the state Route 57 widening and reconstruction project. Also pictured are Ray Bencivengo, center, construction services manager, and Patrick Pijo of the Ohio Department of Transportation. STEVE MANHEIM/CHRONICLE

GRAFTON — Widening of state Route 57 from two to three lanes has caused a divide.

County and village officials at a Wednesday public meeting attended by about 100 people stressed portions of the road will remain open during the seven-month, $4.62 million project. The 1.25-mile project is from the railroad tracks by the Harvest Café, 597 Main St., north to Barrington Drive.

They said businesses can remain open during the seven-month project, which begins Monday. Alyson Moritz, village administrator, said besides a third lane and a new road, the village will get new sidewalks, sewer and water lines and new storm sewers, improving drainage.

“While it’s easy to debate whether we need a new third lane or we need a new road, you also have to think about all the things that are going to be under this road that are really going to be beneficial to the village,” she said. “Not just this year and the next year, but 15, 20, 30 years into the future.”

Denise Shutek, of Nancy's Main Street Diner in Grafton, speaks at a public hearing on state Route 57 widening and reconstruction at Grafton Village Hall on Wednesday. STEVE MANHEIM/CHRONICLE

Denise Shutek, of Nancy’s Main Street Diner in Grafton, speaks at a public hearing on state Route 57 widening and reconstruction at Grafton Village Hall on Wednesday. STEVE MANHEIM/CHRONICLE

Some business owners worried about short-term losses.

“The benefits that come with the project aren’t going to mean anything if we all go out of business,” said Stacy Kois, who runs Marco’s Pizza, 537 Main St., with Robert Kois, her husband.

Robert Kois said the road needs to be resurfaced and widened, but said a third lane is unnecessary. Kois said it might lead to collisions when drivers try to turn into businesses or side streets.

“This is an absolute joke,” he said.

Mayor Megan Flanigan, whose family owns the Unicorn Restaurant & Pub, 423 Main St., said business owners have long opposed the project, which village officials began considering in 2002.

Not so, said former Fourth Ward Councilman Dan Spencer.

Spencer said businesses helped draw up the plan and were “totally kept in the loop.” He said the project was changed to accommodate businesses.

The size for new sidewalks was narrowed to reduce lost parking spaces. The idea of a temporary lane built to maintain traffic throughout the project was scrapped because it would have slowed construction.

“We listened,” Spencer said. “It was not some kind of dictatorship that just said, ‘This is how we’re going to do it.’”

Eighty percent of the project is being paid for by federal taxpayers. Grants from the Ohio Department of Transportation and Ohio Public Works Commission have reduced village taxpayers’ share to $448,478, said Bob Klaiber, Lorain County deputy engineer. He said that number may drop if the village receives an additional $250,000 state grant.

ED BETZEL/CHRONICLE

ED BETZEL/CHRONICLE

The fact that village taxpayers are paying only about 10 percent of the cost makes it a good deal, former Mayor Shari Szczepanski said after the meeting.

Klaiber and Moritz promised that local officials and the companies performing the project will try to communicate well with business owners and homeowners. They said they would try to minimize problems.

“We’re not trying to sugarcoat this,” Moritz said. “Some of this is not going to be pleasant, but we want to try to work with you.”

Road Project

A $4.62 million road widening of state Route 57 in Grafton begins Monday.

  • Monday: Project to add a third lane scheduled to begin.
  • July 7: Southbound traffic diverts to state routes 82 and 83.
  • Sept. 9: Northbound traffic diverts to state routes 82 and 83 with southbound traffic resuming.
  • Nov. 4: Final asphalt resurfacing begins.
  • Nov. 15: Project completed.

SOURCE: Shelly Co.