Plaza Boulevard extension now open
The official opening of the Plaza Boulevard extension on May 17 drew dozens of city officials, staff, Lake County representatives and curious onlookers, cameras in hand.
Everyone was all smiles as they announced that the decades-long journey to complete the project had finally come to an end.
Officials thanked those who had a part in bringing it to fruition, and talked of the improvement to safety force response and efficiency of travel for motorists.
County Commissioner Daniel P. Troy noted the link between a major industrial hub in the city and the county’s “commercial heartland.”
Commissioner Jerry Cirino said it would help to further economic development in the area.
“It took a long time, but good things come to those who wait, most of the time,” he said.
Perhaps ironically, City Manager Ken Filipiak’s comments were interrupted by a train in the background. In the last few years, local leaders had expressed frustration as they awaited movement from railway companies to create at-grade crossings and coordinate warning signals for the project.
“A last little bit of revenge there,” joked Filipiak as people turned to watch the train.
Following a ribbon-cutting across the roadway, a parade of city vehicles drove ceremoniously over the tracks down the extension and back. A Laketran bus was provided for those attendees who wanted to take part in the “maiden voyage.”
The project was the No. 1 recommendation of the city’s Master Streets Committee in 1988. It involved extending the road northwest of Route 20 over two sets of railroad tracks to link to Tyler Boulevard via Clover Avenue. Clover was renamed accordingly.
Change orders within the last year brought the project total to $2.9 million. City leaders originally had hoped to have the extension under way in 2013 after being awarded a $900,000 Ohio Public Works Commission grant/loan. It also will be paid for with tax increment financing revenues and bond funding.
In December, council passed a resolution authorizing creation of a railroad quiet zone at the CSX and Norfolk Southern crossing on the extension. Train horns will no longer routinely be sounded when approaching the crossing except in an emergency.
The Federal Railroad Administration requires extra safety precautions, in addition to lights and gates, in order to allow a quiet zone. The project included raised medians in the center of the road at the crossing to prevent motorists from driving around downed gates.
The quiet zone is expected to take effect for CSX on May 21 and for Norfolk Southern on June 4.
Mentor City Manager Ken Filipiak carries on with his remarks, despite rumbling from a train in the background, during the opening ceremony for the Plaza Boulevard extension May 17.