NORTH OLMSTED

An update on the future resurfacing of a portion of Clague Road came with a bit of bad news when presented to City Council at its March 30 meeting. But city leaders are optimistic the full scope of the project can still be completed.

The stretch of road in question, from the Lorain Road intersection to the northern city limits, is slated for repaving in 2024. In conjunction, the city has explored additional work there that would enhance driver and pedestrian safety on the busy street, and was seeking Ohio Department Of Transportation Safety Program funds to cover a large portion of the cost.

Sam Bobko of Cleveland-based engineering, managing and development firm Mott MacDonald, which conducted numerous traffic studies on Clague Road in 2020, laid out ODOT’s new safety policy and reiterated the firm’s suggestions made during a presentation last fall.

The biggest issue, Bobko noted, was that ODOT is not currently accepting safety funding applications. Normally, the organization reviews them twice per year for projects valued at over $500,000 and once a year for those under $500,000. Applications won’t be available for projects over $500,000 until October or November, but no application process or funding commitments are set in stone. Those under $500,000 can be applied for starting July 1.

Also problematic is the overall timing. Bobko said that ODOT won’t award funds until fiscal year 2025, which begins July 1, 2024 – after the Clague project was set to begin. If the city were to apply for funding for a project under $500,000, it would only be eligible for construction, not design services or additional studies.

“There were a record number of projects funded by ODOT last fiscal year,” Bobko said during the presentation. “COVID-19 and uncertainties with funding and funding sources (led to the pause in funding awards). ODOT is looking at this as a chance to look at what they were doing and refocus. They want to refocus on crash trends in Ohio...Any requests really have to be rooted in safety and primary safety benefits.”

Working in the city’s favor is that along with the repaving, safety is at the forefront of the project. Per Mott MacDonald’s suggestion, the goal is to add a turn lane on Clague Road near the Maple Ridge Road intersection, a point where traffic tends to bottleneck at peak usage hours, such as 3-6 p.m., leading to accidents.

Mott MacDonald’s traffic studies, which included research into crash data over the most recent five-year period available on the stretch of Clague Road in question, revealed that 115 accidents took place, 20% of which resulted in injury. Just over 50% of those accidents were at Maple Ridge, or were a direct result of backed-up traffic at that intersection.

Adding a third lane to that portion of Clague would also require a new traffic signal, timed to keep traffic moving in a more orderly manner.

“A more efficient signal would affect all approaches in a positive way, get drivers through intersections with less delay,” Bobko said. “Maple Ridge is a bottleneck for traffic, bad for congestion and safety.”

Mott MacDonald also suggested upgrading the pedestrian crosswalk leading to Little Clague Park, something ODOT would likely be interested in seeing on an application.

“I am confident that, despite the recent changes to ODOT’s Highway Safety Improvement Program, the safety project for Clague Road recommended by Mott MacDonald will be highly competitive and favorably considered by ODOT, as it meets their program goals of reducing crashes while improving traffic flow and safety for pedestrians,” said city Director of Planning and Urban Development Kim Lieber. “This is a great opportunity to dovetail these improvements – the northbound turning lane at Maple Ridge and a new pedestrian crossing at Clague Park – with funding we already have lined up for resurfacing.”

The safety improvements would cost around $480,000, of which the city would only contribute $24,000 via a required 10% city match. The resurfacing itself has already received $475,000 in funding from the Northeast Ohio Areawide Coordinating Agency, as well as a commitment from Cuyahoga County that will help cover the city’s costs and manage the construction process.

“We’re fortunate that NOACA and Cuyahoga County have committed to work with the city on resurfacing Clague Road in 2024, with NOACA funding 80% of the estimated cost and the county splitting the remaining 20% and managing construction,” Lieber said. “This represents a huge cost savings to our taxpayers than if we were to tackle this work alone.”

Contact this reporter at cvoloschuk@westlifenews.com or 440-871-5797.

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