Plaza Boule­vard ex­ten­sion now open

The News Herald (Willoughby, OH) - - FRONT PAGE - By Betsy Scott bscott@news-her­ald.com @re­porter­betsy on Twit­ter

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.

BETSY SCOTT — THE NEWS-HER­ALD

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.

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