Residents in the Crain Avenue and Lake Street neighborhoods can expect street closures and delays this spring as work on the Fairchild Avenue Bridge increases on the east side of the Cuyahoga River.
Work on the project is set to resume today.
This year, much of the work revolves around raising the Akron Barberton Cluster railroad tracks. Scheduled to start Tuesday, the work starts with construction of a retaining wall between the side track for the Star of the West Milling Co. and the grainery itself.
Kent Engineer Jim Bowling said the contractor, Canton-based Beaver Excavating, will build the wall, relocate a storm sewer, adjust how the mill receives grain by rail and then start work to raise the railroad tracks.
“We’re looking at it lasting from March through September,” Bowling said.
At the highest point, the tracks will be raised almost four feet.
“The reason for that is to meet the bridge, which has to be raised for the trains below," Bowling said.
Part of the new Fairchild Avenue Bridge project included an agreement with CSX, which owns the railroad tracks running beneath the bridge, to raise the new bridge and give diesel locomotives 22 feet of clearance. The Crain Avenue Bridge only provided about 19 feet of clearance to the trains passing beneath it.
The tracks also are being raised to eliminate the sharp drop drivers experience as they exit the existing bridge onto Crain Avenue, North Water or Lake streets. The rise also will improve sight distance at the new bridge's easternmost intersection.
For a smooth transition onto and off the bridge, North Water Street will be lowered in that area of the bridge by about one foot.
"What will really effect people, starting April 4, Crain Avenue will be closed east of Water Street," Bowling said. "The Crain Avenue Bridge will be open to Lake Street, and Lake Street will be open, but Crain Avenue east of the intersection will be closed. And (North) Water Street will be closed from south of the intersection with Crain and Lake to Brady Street."
While all these closures will last about five months, residents and motorists will have one thing to look forward to — the opening of the new Fairchild Avenue Bridge. The new bridge is set to open to traffic Oct. 1, 2011. About a year's worth of work will remain to finish S.R. 43 and demolish the old bridge.
“That will be a big day," Bowling said of the new bridge opening. "Because once that’s open … traffic right now from everything that we’ve seen and the people we've talked to who live in that area and drive it say traffic is much better now on (S.R.) 43 than it ever was before. And we’re not done.
"We still have two intersections, and we’re only going to have one," he said. "We will have four lanes on the new bridge, where the current bridge only has two lanes. Incrementally, traffic is getting better as we get pieces done."