When you’ve got the largest bridge project in the history of Portage County it’s easy to be misunderstood which is why the City Engineer and his staff have been working so hard to put out accurate information regarding what is and is not being done in the project and why. The staff recently completed a short video entitled “The Sage of the Crain Avenue Bridge” that is available for viewing online. Plus, I’ve included a copy of a recent flyer they put together to help people understand the bridge concept a little better.
Here’s the online video link: The Saga of the Crain Avenue Bridge
When I asked our Jim Bowling our City Engineer what he finds people in Kent are most confused on regarding the bridge he said what properties are impacted (aka where is the new bridge going to be?), how will it look when it’s all done, and why didn’t we just settle for replacing the old bridge on the County’s tab?
I think Jim Bowling and Gene Roberts, Public Service Director, do a great job of answering these in the video clip but here’s some more ways of answering them.
What Properties are Impacted ?
When you do a major construction project like this you’re going to impact some properties. Obviously the engineers do their best to minimize those impacts and be sensitive to resident’s needs but in a city with the kind of density that Kent has it would be hard to not impact someone somewhere along the way. The key is managing those impacts as best as possible.
Since this project has substantial federal funding, the property impacts, such as relocation, are governed by guidelines created by the federal government. Plus, the City has it’s own relocation policy that is even more friendly than the federal standards. All of which is to say that being impacted by a construction project is never easy but there are assistance programs offered by both the federal government and the City that try to be fair in compensating the impacted parties.
There’s a full range of property impacts on this project — meaning some properties may only lose a foot or so along their front curb while some will be purchased in their entirity. And likewise, some impacts are just temporary during construction while others are permanent. Either way, everyone will be paid for their impacts, the question is how much?
There’s no question that property negotiations can get tricky. They’re supposed to follow appraised values and comps from the recent sales of nearby properties but anyone that has ever sold a house knows that the dynamics of offering a price and accepting a price can be difficult even in the best of times much less in a challenging real estate market like we have today.
There’s a list of impacted properties that Jim has but most of those are slight impacts, e.g., a foot here or there; here’s a map and listing of the bigger ones that involve structures that are planned to be acquired and removed:
How will it look when its done?
I did a post back in May that tried to answer this question in greater detail and rather than reprint it here, I’ll give you the link to that post and the renderings that Jim had prepared to begin to give you a sense of the physical outcomes of this project:
Why didn’t we just take a free bridge from the County?
The answer to this question is a little more complicated. First of all Jim has told me that there was never really going to be a free bridge that would have been entirely on the County’s tab. He said if that path had been chosen we would have eventually had to deal with many of the same engineering issues that ultimately became cost factors in the newly designed bridge — it’s just that we never got far enough down the road with this option for these cost items to emerge so it appeared to be a free bridge but really there is no such thing as a free lunch or free bridge in this case.
Jim admits that the tearing down the current bridge and putting a new one back in its place would have been cheaper — just not free. However Jim is also quick to point out that the County version of the bridge would not have solved many of the traffic safety and neighborhood issues that have become so closely linked to this bridge. In other words, the current project is much more than just a bridge project which is why it does indeed cost more but to the staff’s credit they’ve been able to leverage signficantly more federal dollars to offset much of those costs.
Here’s Jim’s summary of how this is more than just a routine bridge project:
One of the most significant challenges when trying to solve transportation problems in an existing system is determining how to make the necessary improvements fit within the fabric of the community, instead of damaging that fabric. That was, is and will be one of the primary challenges of the Fairchild Avenue Bridge Project. The projects primary focus is to replace the structurally deficient bridge at Crain Avenue and solve traffic congestion at N. Mantua Street (SR 43) at Fairchild and Crain Avenues. Thanks to a considerable effort from the Crain Avenue Citizens Advisory Committee and design team the project will not only address those two critical issues, it will also become part of the fabric of our community.
The project includes the replacement of the Crain Avenue Bridge with a new structure aligned with Fairchild Avenue and added turn lanes where needed to reduce delay and emissions. The project does not stop there however. It also includes traffic calming and management techniques to better define City neighborhoods. The project will construct a critical link in “The Portage” Hike and Bike Trail. This link will also become the northern limits of the River Edge Whitewater Park that our City is currently pursuing money to construct. Pedestrian facilities will be predominant in the project; including wider walkways (6 to 10 feet wide) set up to 50 feet from the edge of pavement, signal systems designed to better facilitate pedestrian street crossings and better defined cross-walks at intersections. Storm water treatment has also been integrated into the project. Two water quality facilities are being constructed to treat storm water prior to discharging into the Cuyahoga.
Here’s a staus update from Jim on what to expect next on this project:
The project design and right-of-way acquisition phases are nearing completion. These phases will be completed by the end of the year. The construction phase of the project will then begin in early 2009. Construction is anticipated to be completed over a three year period. This is being done to minimize the impacts to the public, while maintaining safe work zones for the construction workers. The first phase of the project will consist of building the new bridge and underground utilities. The second phase will include constructing the Fairchild/N. Mantua Street intersection and the Crain/Lake/Water Street intersection. The third and final phase includes constructing the remainder of N. Mantua Street, demolition of the existing Crain Avenue Bridge and constructing a bike and hike trail bridge in the same location as the existing Crain Avenue Bridge as part of “The Portage.” During construction updates will be provided regularly on changeable message boards, printed publications, the City web site and radio station. The project when completed will then serve not only to reduce congestion and provide a crossing over the Cuyahoga River, it will also identify our neighborhoods, provide access to the Cuyahoga River, provide for safe pedestrian travel and help clean our storm water.