ELYRIA — After several years of planning and coordinating with property owners and the state, the city is moving forward with a proposed $4.3 million project to fix traffic congestion in the Chestnut Commons area by building a connector road from Broad Street to Chestnut Commons.
Elyria Mayor Holly Brinda announced Thursday that she will present a plan to City Council’s Community Development Committee at 6 p.m. Monday in Council chambers at City Hall. She said the city has been in conversations with property owners including Walmart and DBR Commercial Realty for about six months.
“This is phase one of two phases of traffic mitigation activities that we’re going to exercise here,” Brinda said. “It will help and it’s the one we will be able to do the fastest, and it’s the most affordable right now.”
Brinda said she will ask City Council to give her permission to accept donations of property from both Walmart and DBR Commercial Realty to enable the construction of a Broad Street-Chestnut Commons connector road.
The road will follow the west side of the Walmart parking lot, continue north through two additional Walmart properties and through the DBR property to a new roundabout intersection at East Broad Street and Ternes Lane.
That should help reduce 20 percent of the current traffic experienced at Chestnut Commons, according to Brinda. The connector also will be constructed as a three-lane road with a dedicated left turn lane in the center at the roundabout.
An engineering study identified a roundabout as the most efficient and effective method for vehicle traffic that also provided a second entrance/exit and caused fewer delays than an intersection with lights, stop signs or other traffic signals, according to Brinda.
The project will be paid for by the city fronting notes to build to road, and recovering the cost of road construction over 10 years through a tax increment financing district. A TIF is a means of financing public infrastructure projects that uses future property tax increases to aid economic development.
The TIF will be put in place once property donations are finalized, and Brinda said the city hopes to start construction on the connector road later this year with an estimated completion date of October 2020.
“That’s not to say we’re not going to act on a second option as well, but this is the one we felt we could do the most expediently,” she said. “We’ll recover the cost over 10 years, so we will get our money back, which is good news.”
Brinda said benefits from the construction of the connector road will include an alternative entrance and exit for traffic, helping to reduce congestion at the intersections of Chestnut Ridge Road and state Route 57 and Chestnut Commons and Chestnut Ridge Road; improving safety, timing and access for motorists, police and fire departments; and alternative access that will encourage more customers and traffic for existing and future business development at Chestnut Commons.
The connector road is the first of a two-phase solution, Brinda said, calling the investment in the city “wonderful” while recognizing the “frustration” from traffic congestion caused for residents and businesses in the Chestnut Commons area.
“The city of Elyria is actively working with all involved stakeholders to remedy the situation,” she said Thursday. “We are especially grateful to Walmart and Mr. (Dan) Reaser, president of DBR Commercial Realty, for being willing to step forward and donate property to help create this much-needed and soon-to-be-appreciated solution.”
Reaser — whose donation includes a 60-foot-wide easement through 61 acres of land between Walmart and Broad Street and a partial donation of land for the proposed roundabout — said Thursday he was “thrilled to be in a position to help make this traffic solution happen.”
“I have had my businesses in that area for over 40 years and I am just as frustrated as everyone else with the traffic issues,” he said in a statement accompanying Brinda’s announcement. “I welcomed Mayor Brinda’s request for the donation because I believe in what she is doing and she is always looking out for the best interests of our citizens, especially in the areas of traffic improvement and safety.”
Additional commercial and mixed-use development is planned south of the area, with the city continuing to work with developers on traffic congestion solutions. K. Hovnanian Homes also has a 250-plus-unit 55-and-older housing development, Four Seasons at Chestnut Ridge, planned near Bender Road, while an unnamed mixed-use development south of Chestnut Ridge still appears to be in the planning process.
The city and the Ohio Department of Transportation have been working together on a way to fix traffic congestion in the area for three years.
One idea was to extend Sugar Lane through protected wetlands, and another to build a second entrance/exit behind Walmart, but both were rejected. The project announced Thursday will include a $754,000 contingency to address the wetlands on the Walmart property, Brinda said.
The city also previously looked at adding a legal U-turn, also known as a “Michigan left turn,” which would have had motorists heading south on Route 57 travel past Chestnut Ridge, enter a left-turn lane further down to make a U-turn, then turn right onto Chestnut Ridge and then use a roundabout to get into the busy complex. The city rejected that plan, at an estimated cost of $3.8 million, as too expensive for it to manage on its own at that time.
Brinda said the city continues to talk with the Ohio Department of Transportation about additional access to state Route 57 — “a parallel road or maybe another roundabout,” she said — though a preliminary estimate of the cost of doing that second project is somewhere in the neighborhood of $5 million to $7 million, she said.
Brinda said she knows the solution that was reached won’t resolve all the traffic issues or the issues that might come up from future developments, “but it’s certainly going to help.”
“We knew we needed to do something either way, and we’re very fortunate that both Walmart and DBR Commercial Realty stepped up when we requested they participate in the solution,” she said. “It’s in everyone’s best interest.”