Crain Bridge project is ready to go

Andrew Gaug

After years of stop-and-go progress, construction for the Crain Avenue and Fairchild Avenue bridges is back on track.

City engineer Chris Tolnar said although he anticipates construction for the project to begin in 2009, the Ohio Department Of Transportation first has to assess the costs.

Tolnar said preliminary estimates for the project were $3.5 million, but were more recently lowered to $2.3 million in 2006.

The Crain Avenue bridge serves as a route that many students coming in from the Cleveland area take as a shortcut to get to classes, councilwoman Beth Oswitch said.

“When (classes change) or the end of work shifts, you can tell,” Oswitch said.

Oswitch said the high volume of traffic through the streets connected to Crain Avenue have drawn complaints, and building a new bridge on Fairchild Avenue that will connect the area directly with downtown Kent will help alleviate traffic.

Along with traffic problems, Tolnar said the Crain Avenue bridge, which was erected in the early 1900s and rebuilt in the ’50s, can’t be fixed so that it could operate for a good number of years.

“The bridge rating was low enough that it required reconstruction as opposed to rehabilitation,” he said.

According to a document from the city’s Department of Public Service, the project first began in 1991 and was agreed to by the city of Kent and Portage County with the intentions of working together to create it in 1997. The project stalled in 2002 after the first 12 designs from a design firm called Arcadis were rejected by a special council.

“The original design was really hard on wards and neighborhoods,” councilman Ed Bargerstock said.

After a City Action Committee was formed by Oswitch, four more designs were optioned, with one of them making the final cut.

The main problem that has followed the bridge since its inception has been funding.

Tolnar said the initial appraisal was an estimated $17.1 million, but as that was made to include problems the project might face, it has been lowered to $16 million.

“Unfortunately, you’re looking into the crystal ball,” he said. “Until the last dollar is spent, I can’t tell you what the cost will be.”

Oswitch said although approving the right-of-way is part of the initial process, it’s a step in the right direction.

“We know we want the bridge, we know we have to move forward,” she said. “This has been a very long process for all of us.”

Bargerstock also agreed with moving the project along, even though he said he wasn’t in favor of it in the beginning.

“We’re already out in the middle of the road” Bargerstock said, “It would be foolhardy to not continue.”

Contact public affairs reporter Andrew Gaug at [email protected].