ELYRIA — The answer to driving woes in the face of the East Side Sewer Relief project is more traffic enforcement by police officers and a temporary signal meant to control traffic on North Abbe Road, which is taking the brunt of the detoured traffic.
City officials said Thursday that traffic control will increase as the project stretches into the fall and winter. This comes after City Hall has been under attack by residents for its approach to traffic in the area as a contractor works to install a new
78-inch stormwater sewer.
The project started on Gulf Road in the spring, closing the thoroughfare. Now that workers are making slow progress down Whitman Boulevard toward Abbe, more is being done to alleviate what has become the biggest concern for residents.
“We are doing everything in our power to mitigate and minimize the inconveniences to residents. I understand how they feel,” Mayor Holly Brinda said. “I live on the north side, too. I have seen the increase in traffic.”
The project is necessary to repair longstanding flooding in the neighborhoods.
City engineers estimate the project will take five years to complete and Elyria is only in year one.
“When we are done with this, we will no longer have basement flooding in affected neighborhoods,” Brinda said.
“We are talking about north of Whitman, by Lorain County Community College and the St. Jude and Eastern Heights neighborhoods,” said city Engineer Tim Ujvari. “This is a long-term project, but it will solve a lot of problems in those neighborhoods.”
The project also is the city’s response to a federal mandate from the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency to address issues the city has long experienced because of its number of combined sewers that convey sanitary waste when it’s dry and stormwater when it rains.
When the city has heavy rain, the combined sewers overflow, and that overflow goes into the Black River.
The biggest change to come to Abbe Road went into effect Thursday morning. At the intersection of Abbe and Stafford Drive, the city has installed a temporary traffic signal that has two purposes. It is there to slow traffic on Abbe and allow residents to get out of the neighborhood with less delay, said Ujvari.
He said the light is not authorized by the Ohio Department of Transportation because it is temporary.
“But temporary for us because of this project means at least two years,” he said.
Police Chief Duane Whitely said more officers — both from his department and from the Ohio Highway Patrol — will conduct targeted enforcement in the area.
“The complaints up until now have been about how people are speeding down Abbe,” he said. “The complaints will go from people saying there are speeders to people saying we are getting tickets. The light is there and the officers will be there to slow traffic down. A high percentage of the crashes in that area are rear-end crashes related to speed.”
Brinda said the increased enforcement on Gulf and Abbe roads will be roughly 16 hours per day Monday through Friday.
Whitely said officers will vary their locations and presence.
Safety Service Director Mary Siwierka said an electronic message sign also will be added to the area to help communicate to motorists the status of the project and recommended travel routes.
The East Side Relief Sewer is broken into small phases, and each has its own timetable.
With work progressing about 80 to 100 feet a day — roughly the width of one neighborhood lot — the progress is slow and weather-dependent.
Right now, contractors are on a phase called 1B North. That’s the Whitman portion that goes from Gulf to Canterbury Drive. It started earlier this month, and Ujvari believes contractors will complete pipe installation along that stretch of the project by year’s end.
“But that will be too late in the year to finish paving,” he said. “It will be more of a gravel temporary road until we can come back and build a completely new road in the spring.”
Contractors will move to 1B South in March. It picks up at Canterbury and continues east on Whitman until just short of Abbe. Contractors will repeat the process of slowly installing the sewer pipe through to September 2018.
Phase 1C should begin in October 2018. That portion of the project is under design.
“We want to drive home to residents what the next 12 months will look like and how they should expect changes, sometimes daily, depending on where contractors are at in the project,” Ujvari said. “One day residents could be able to enter and exit their homes heading east on Whitman toward Abbe and the next day that could change to the same residents needing to go west toward Gulf.”
And speaking of Gulf, Ujvari said local traffic will have access to the road within a few days. Through traffic will come by the end of the year.
“We could move faster. Residents want to see that happen, too, so some have even offered their front yards as staging areas for equipment,” Ujvari said. “It speaks to how important cooperation is with a project of this magnitude. Of course, we will repair everything, but people have said they are willing to do their part if it means a shorter inconvenience.”
Officials recommend taking school bus if eligible
With students returning to Elyria Schools on Sept. 5, school officials want to remind residents that one of the best ways for students to get to school is by bus.
Neighborhoods around the East Side Sewer Relief project feed into the district Windsor Elementary School and Northwood and Westwood middle schools. With the anticipation of heavy traffic on North Abbe Road, school officials said less traffic from school commuters will help.
“This is something we are looking at and with more students now being eligible for the bus it could be something to think about,” said school board vice president Kevin Brubaker, who is also an assistant safety service director for the city. “We know this project will impact our Windsor parents that are used to using Whitman to get back to Gulf and Abbe roads.”
First Student is the district’s transportation contractor. Nikki McDaniel is the transportation supervisor and can answer question about bus eligibility and pickup and drop-off times at (440) 284-8030.
Contact Lisa Roberson at 329-7121 or firstname.lastname@example.org.