Officials say Akron-Peninsula Road to remain closed indefinitely
Closed in November due to erosion, Akron-Peninsula Road in the Cuyahoga Valley will remain closed indefinitely unless someone can come up the money to fix it.
Peninsula Mayor Dan Schneider, whose town is responsible for the road, just doesn't have the cash, he said.
“The estimates so far, without any official work being done, have been thrown out around $1 million, which is almost what my budget is,” he explained.
An eastward meandering stretch of the Cuyahoga River has eroded much of the riverbank, causing the southbound lane to fail and forcing the road's closure about a mile south of Route 303 by the former Brandywine Country Club golf course.
Village council recently considered an unsolicited estimate that put an $810,000 price tag on fixing the road – way more than the village has on hand or could likely borrow, Schneider said.
"It would cost more money than we have, and I don't know how the residents would feel about the cost ... we sure don't have any spare change in our budget," he said.
The village's 600 residents – fewer than 300 households – would likely not be inclined to borrow money to pay for it.
"I don't see how we as a village could borrow $1 million," he said. "I really don't know what the rest of the plan is, or who's willing to help or how important to the region it is."
Even if the village had the money to make the repairs, it wouldn't be able to hire the firm that submitted the estimate. Under state law, it would have to have project specifications prepared, then advertise for contractors to submit bids to do the work.
Schneider said village officials have thus far made no decisions on how to proceed.
Akron-Peninsula Road handled about 2,200 vehicles daily prior to the closure, according to the Akron Metropolitan Traffic Study, an agency that guides the spending of transportation dollars.
Riverview Road, which parallels Akron-Peninsula Road, handled around 2,700 vehicles daily on either side of Route 303 — which itself sees an around 3,300 vehicles per day moving through the village. Current traffic counts were not available.
Schneider said keeping the road closed could impact village business and residents, as well as Woodridge Local Schools.
"It's very important to us ... definitely it's an inconvenience to everybody," he said.
However, the school district and Terry Lumber, a local building supply firm located in the village, said they are getting by.
Terry Heard, transportation supervisor for Woodridge, said the district has had to adjust four school bus routes to get around the closure, but hasn't had to change schedules.
"We just have to use the surrounding roads," he said. "We use Route 303, we use Riverview ... the times haven't changed.
"It's had an effect, but it's a small effect," he said.
A representative with Terry Lumber also said they have been able to get around without much trouble.
Road closures are not uncommon in the valley.
Riverview Road was closed for four months last year, just north of Route 303, where a county bridge washed out on Memorial Day weekend.
Unlike the section of Akron-Peninsula Road the village is responsible for, the county is responsible for maintaining bridges, so the village did not have to cover the $400,000 repair job.
Summit County officials said the county doesn't have funds to help fix Akron-Peninsula Road, but the county engineer's office has offered use of concrete barriers to block off the failed lane and a temporary traffic light to allow one lane of traffic to open.
Due to the village’s limited staff, maintaining the light would have been impractical. Also, said Schneider, there is a concern that traffic would back up on the north side of the closure to Route 303 if intermittent traffic were allowed.
Joe Paradise, deputy director of engineering services with the Summit County Engineer’s Office, said that in decades past, it would have been possible to reroute the oxbow that caused the erosion in the first place. But what would be a relatively low-cost fix to the problem would now require unlikely approval due to environmental concerns from government agencies including the Ohio EPA, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, and U.S. Army Corps of Engineers.
"It would be an easy fix to relocate the bend in the river," he said. "We have several agencies who would object to it."
As far as county funding, he said the engineer's office has no cash to offer for local projects that are municipal responsibilities.
It's got enough work of its own to handle, such as the Riverview Road bridge that failed last year.
"It's a county bridge on a village street," Paradise said.
The county is also responsible for township roads, such as Valley View Road in Sagamore Hills Township, where $2 million is earmarked to prevent landslides.
The county is presently monitoring a total of 46 landslide areas in townships.
One area being repaired is West Bath Road in Boston Township, expected to be finished this year at a cost of around $1 million.
Plans for are in the works for Boston Mills Road, where a long-term fix to weak slopes is expected to cost as much as $40 million.
Boston Mills Road “has always been problematic,” said Amy Anderson, who chairs the Boston Township Board of Trustees.
Several areas along the road on either side of Interstate 271 are bordered by steep slopes susceptible to landslides.
In the past, sections of slopes have been stabilized by drilling long steel rods into the unstable ground, where unreachable bedrock can be more than 100 feet under the surface.
“The nail guns held up for a good bit of time,” Anderson said.
Paradise said the county has not obtained funding to stabilize Boston Mills Road, which handles about 6,300 cars per day.
Paradise said it’s uncertain when the slopes could fail.
“When’s it going to rain next real hard?” he asked.
“A landslide is dependent on existing groundwater to lubricate the slope. If we get an extremely wet summer, we could use it this year. If we get extremely dry summers for a few years, it may never change.”
A major rain event closed roads and washed away parts of the Cuyahoga Valley Scenic Railroad in May, 2014. The city of Akron reported as much as 4 inches of rain fell, cars were left floating on Riverview Road and Cuyahoga Falls City Hall was closed as waist-deep water filled its lower level.
Not all roads have to stay open.
The county is presently vacating sections of Everett and Oak Hill roads south of the covered bridge in the center of the Cuyahoga Valley.
The roads are just not worth maintaining, Paradise said, explaining about 225 cars per day used the roads, which would have cost $5 to $6 million to repair.