Less delays near Fairchild Avenue Bridge project

Simon Husted

Motorists driving near the bridge construction on Fairchild Avenue can be rest assured that the worst is over as the 4-year project finishes its second of three phases.

Jim Bowling, the city engineer managing the project, said the newly constructed four-lane bridge will be ready for motorists to cross the Cuyahoga river by the end of this year. The next phase will involve demolishing part of the Crain Avenue Bridge and building a pedestrian bridge in its place.

Another major piece to the third phase will be to finish the west side of state route 43 around Fairchild Avenue. Bowling said he expects traffic to be restricted to two lanes on North Mantua Street once work begins this spring.

“That’s the biggest obstruction,” Bowling said.

The third phase is slated for completion by December 2012 with expenses below its $26 million budget, Bowling said.

However as of now “we’re leaving one of the more restrictive phases on traffic,” Bowling said.

In July, the Crain Avenue Bridge was closed down for five days while motorists took detour routes and extended their commutes to get around the city.

Jim Soyars, the business manager for the Kent School District, said their bus system encountered its most inconvenient delays in 2010 when workers restricted traffic on state route 43 to two lanes and prohibited left turns from North Mantua Street onto Fairchild Avenue.

Bowling’s office has warned the district of any traffic restrictions “a day or days in advance,” Soyars said.

Since the school year began last week, picking up and dropping off students has been a smooth start and Soyars said he is already noticing smoother traffic conditions because of the extra turning lanes the city added on state route 43.

“I’ve got to tell you that left turn onto Crain Avenue Bridge has been amazing because before you were just in that second lane and it was blocking traffic,” Soyars said. “Traffic has been flowing a lot better than it ever has and I think that’s going to continue when (cars) get onto the Fairchild bridge.”

Bowling said before the $26 million project started, the intersection on state route 43 “was the most congested intersection in Summit and Portage County” and the Crain Avenue Bridge was rated in poor condition for at least 15 years. He said a project like this was needed to improve safety in the area and help extend the Portage Hike and Bike Trail as well.

“We’re solving four major issues within the community,” Bowling said. It’s just a tough zone to work. The reason why it took so long to get here and the reason why it’s taking so long to finish is because it’s a very complicated area and we want to get it right.”