ELYRIA — The east-side relief sewer project that has hassled drivers of Gulf Road for months is taking a turn down Whitman Boulevard, and residents are not happy.
City Engineer Tim Ujvari took the brunt of residents’ frustrations Tuesday evening at a public meeting designed to update neighbors. But residents quickly took control of the meeting with concerns about traffic volume and accidents, especially on Abbe Road that has seen an increase in traffic since Gulf closed.
“Traffic control is done minimally or not at all with no one understanding the magnitude of this project,” said resident Jim Zarlinga. “That big accident (Monday) is an example of the ball being dropped on this project. It’s all about the traffic and the planning — the lack of planning.”
Monday, a two-vehicle crash at Howard Street and Abbe tied up traffic and sent two to the hospital.
Zarlinga was one of many residents who attended the meeting and bemoaned the project. More than three dozen residents attended the 4:30 p.m. meeting in City Council chambers.
“Your excuses are very empty,” Zarlinga said to Ujvari as the city official tried to explain traffic control in the neighborhood. “That should have been done first. You guys go to school for this. You are engineers. I am just a dummy and I knew this — traffic control is first.”
The project began in February. It is the city’s response to a federal mandate to address issues the city has long experienced because of its number of combined sewers that convey sanitary waste when it’s dry and storm water when it rains.
When the city has heavy rain, the combined sewers overflow, and that overflow goes into the Black River.
The remedy, Ujvari said, is a new 78-inch-diameter sewer buried almost 30 feet deep that snakes through parts of the city. It will take about four to five years to construct, but Gulf Road was the starting point. Contractors are ready to move the pipe down Whiteman Boulevard to Abbe.
“We know this is a rather large project, impacting Gulf Road and the surrounding areas significantly,” he said.
Now that the project is moving into an even more residential neighborhood, residents are not being shy with their feelings about prolonged road closures, detours, lack of access to their driveways and increased wait times associated with navigating traffic on their streets.
“The traffic on Abbe has increased 100 percent since you closed off Gulf,” said Jim Horvatich of Stafford Drive. “Somebody’s going to get killed, and it’s going to be on the city.”
Ujvari said to facilitate equipment and materials for the project, Gulf will remained closed. Whitman will close in sections as the contractors move east at a rate of about 30 to 40 feet of pipe installed per day once the area is dug out.
The plan is to install a temporary traffic light at Stafford and Abbe to help ease traffic out of the neighborhood and eliminate left turns from Whitman onto Abbe. Elyria police also will be in the area more to assist with traffic.
“People will have limited access, and we will need the cooperation of the neighbors,” Ujvari said.
Residents want to see more done and offered several possible solutions including using Hilltop Park as a staging area for contractors so Gulf can reopen, reducing the speed limit on Abbe between Burns and Hilliard roads from 35 mph to 25 mph and assigning more officers to enforce traffic laws on Abbe Road, which Ujvari said has a daily traffic volume of about 20,000 vehicles.
Residents are equally concerned with how the start of school will affect this project. Windsor Elementary School is in the middle of the neighborhood. It has a small parking lot and already causes heavy traffic in the neighborhood without the additional constraints posed by the sewer project.
Contact Lisa Roberson at 329-7121