Fairchild bridge nearing completion


Jamie Martinez, of Beaver Excavating, works on the sidewalk that will be on the new Fairchild bridge. Photo by Jacob Byk.

Simon Husted

Motorists driving near the bridge construction on Fairchild Avenue can take comfort in knowing the worst is over as construction on the 4-year project passes the third and final phase.

This next phase will involve demolishing part of the Crain Avenue Bridge and building a pedestrian bridge in its place. The west side of state Route 43 around Fairchild Avenue should also be finished.

Jim Bowling, Kent city engineer, said the newly constructed four-lane bridge would be ready for motorists to cross the Cuyahoga River by the end of this year.

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.

Jim Soyars, 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.

But Soyars said since the school year began, picking up and dropping off students has gone smoothly and he is already noticing better traffic conditions because of the extra turn lanes the city added.

“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.”

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

Before construction for the new bridge began, the intersection on state Route 43 “was the most congested intersection in Summit and Portage County,” Bowling said, 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.”

Contact Simon Husted at [email protected].