AVON — Cheers and applause greeted the first tractor-trailer as it lumbered up the new Nagel Road/Interstate 90 interchange and turned onto the westbound entrance ramp a few minutes after Mayor Jim Smith cut a ceremonial red ribbon to officially open the $28 million project to traffic.
In remarks before the ribbon-cutting, Smith termed the interchange project “the most difficult thing I’ve ever done.”
“You have no idea how many sleepless nights I spent walking my dog up here at 2 a.m.,” Smith said.
The interchange weathered hurdles that included resistance from local property owners fearful they would be assessed a third of the costs of the project.
That opposition led to a plan to finance the interchange through a joint venture in which the city sold more than $20 million in municipal bonds, while a third of the $28 million construction cost was paid for by the Richard E. Jacobs Group, which owns hundreds of acres of land nearby and developed the nearby Richard E. Jacobs Cleveland Clinic Avon Family Health and Surgery Center on Chester Road.
The interchange was opened to traffic nine months ahead of schedule, due in large part to good construction weather, the easing of traffic headaches by the opening of Avon Road into Westlake, and the building of a temporary road north of the interchange that moved thousands of patients to and from the Jacobs Cleveland Clinic Avon Family Health and Surgery Center.
“All of these things just came together for us,” Smith said.
Many of those people are expected to make use of the new interchange a few minutes west of the medical building.
“The clinic has exceeded all expectations,” Smith said Thursday of the increase in patients visiting the large facility that has risen from a projected 800 a day to around 1,200.
Total costs of the project included land acquisition, relocation of water lines and other utilities and other costs.
Thursday’s opening of the interchange is a far cry from the early 1990s when a temporary road was built to get trucks go and from the Manco plant whose famous Duct Tape brands are now manufactured under the name Shur-Tek.
Jack Kahl, who began Manco, joked about the awful condition of the temporary road that was dubbed the “Ho Chi Minh Trail.”
“We had customers who were dropping axles, and I had to pay for it,” Kahl said.
Despite the many years it took to bring the interchange to fruition, Kahl said he never doubted Smith’s determination to see it through.
“I always knew it would happen,” Kahl said. “I had faith in Jim.”
According to traffic simulation models, the interchange will take about 35 percent of the current traffic volume of state Route 83 as it passes through the city, and thus ease backups, especially in the vicinity of the busy and usually congested Avon Commons shopping area.
The new interchange is also expected to reduce traffic volume at Crocker-Bassett Road by about 18 percent, Smith said.
The Nagel Road interchange should ease traffic and make for safer driving for commuters exiting I-90 at Route 83 to head home to Avon, Avon Lake and North Ridgeville, State Rep. Gayle Manning, R-North Ridgeville, said.
Smith said he looks for the interchange to help “produce significant income in the next five years.”
Hotels are a likely addition to the area, according to Smith.
“From an economic standpoint this is huge for Lorain County,” Manning said.“The more businesses that open up around there, the more people will be working.”
Contact Steve Fogarty at 329-7146 or firstname.lastname@example.org.