Fairchild Ave. bridge project to cost $26M, construction to begin in May

Christina Thomas

Construction on the new Fairchild Avenue bridge is scheduled to begin in May and the project will cost $26 million, Kent City Engineer Jim Bowling said at last night’s city council meeting.

Bowling gave a presentation about the financing for the Fairchild Avenue bridge, as well as an update on downtown redevelopment efforts.

The bridge project includes the construction of a new bridge, a connection of the Portage Hike and Bike trail systems along the river, wider sidewalks, an added turn lane on state Route 43 and more green space on the east side of state Route 43, north of the bridge.

The bridge serves approximately 15,000 vehicles every day, making it the second-most active crossing in Kent, according to the City of Kent’s Web site. That amount of traffic causes it to be the most congested intersection in Summit and Portage counties.

Bowling said the federal government will pay 70 to 80 percent of the entire project, which will help cover costs such as buying the buildings, relocating the tenants and paying a portion of the demolition. He said another meeting next week will determine where the rest of the funding will come from.

One reason the cost of building the bridge increased was because the price of materials like asphalt and steel increased so dramatically that the estimate of the project went up as well, Bowling said.

“The last piece of the funding puzzle is being decided shortly; we find out March 18 if we get a small portion of stimulus money to help pay for this,” he said.

City Manager Dave Ruller said Bowling did an amazing job obtaining the maximum amount of funding from different sources, especially when costs were going up.

“We’re basically spending $4.4 million and we’re getting a $26 million project out of it, and that’s a significant reinvestment in Kent,” Ruller said. “It didn’t happen easily, and these guys had to work really hard to sell that.

“They did a terrific job and we owe them a great debt for the debt that they are keeping all of us out of.”

Bowling also gave a detailed presentation of the plans the city has made over the past nine months for the redevelopment of the greater downtown area. He listed all the different groups that are involved with the project, like Kent State, Portage County, Portage Area Regional Transportation Authority, Kent Parks and Recreation, Fairmount Properties and Ron Burbick, who funded the Phoenix Project.

The redevelopment of downtown will include a visitors’ center and entryway to the university, transit system, parking lot, safety service center and street works.

Ward 6 councilwoman Tracy Wallach said projects such as the multi-modal facility are moving along nicely, and a lot of it has to do with President Lester Lefton.

“Since the new university president, the relationship between the university and the city has improved 500 percent,” Wallach said.

Wallach said she thinks Lefton understands the necessity to have a solid community around the university.

“It’s just encouraging to see the two entities sitting at the same table working together,” she said.

Contact public affairs reporter Christina Thomas at [email protected].