STOW: After seven years of planning, a couple of court battles and some anxious public meetings, the Graham Road reconstruction project is finally getting underway.
The $6.1 million project will see lanes widened and intersections improved between state Route 8 and Bath Road, a bustling commercial corridor that straddles Stow and Cuyahoga Falls and is used by up to 30,000 motorists a day.
Some of the 80 property owners along the affected route were invited to Stow City Hall on Tuesday for a final question-and-answer session with Stow and Cuyahoga Falls officials, Kenmore Construction and the Ohio Department of Transportation before crews start tearing up the road.
Jim Dreiling, project manager for Kenmore Construction, said weather delayed the original March 3 start, but outlined the following schedule:
• Work from Bath Road to Wyoga Lake Road will begin in a couple of weeks and be completed by June 30.
• The concrete section near the state Route 8 bridge will be done this summer and completed in August.
• When the Bath-to-Wyoga section is completed, crews will continue to Gilbert Road, tying things up in August or September.
• The section from Gilbert to the state Route 8 ramps will begin in the fall and be finished by the end of the year. The freeway ramps may close for up to 14 days during construction.
• Final resurfacing of the entire route will be done in 2015.
A lane will be maintained in both directions at all times.
Some business owners voiced concern about patrons being able to access their properties, but Stow City Engineer Jim McCleary said signs will mark the entry point for each and every business. Those points may change during construction, he said, but work will be staggered in such a way that there will always be a drive available.
City officials are offering on-site consultations to explain in greater detail.
Dentist David Waldron, whose office sits at Graham and Caleb Street, attended the meeting to get a better idea of how his property will be affected. He wants to install new signage and wanted to be sure his plans still made sense.
His wife and office manager, Lois Waldron, said they were confident the project would benefit their corner lot by improving left-turn lanes off Graham Road.
“Also the condition of the road the last year or two has been a real challenge, so it will be nice to have that fixed,” she said.
State Farm Insurance agent Meghan MacDonald said she intends to prepare customers by offering them alternative routes to her office near Elmwood Street.
“We’re going to tell them ahead of time the best way to avoid” the work, she said.
Some open house attendees said traffic strategies employed during last year’s effort to move utility lines created chaos, with ill-defined lanes causing near accidents and left-turn lanes being held hostage for 20 minutes.
McCleary said much was learned from those mistakes and “we took them into account in making these plans.”
Unlike last year, traffic signals will be adjusted to match the new traffic needs, police will be employed at key intersections to make sure crossroads are not blocked, and stripes will be painted on the road to clearly identify lanes.
Graham Road has only been resurfaced once since it was widened in 1978.
Stow began applying for funds to improve the road in 2007, and is receiving $4.7 million in federal aid. The two cities will split the rest of the cost.
Engineering started in 2008, and right-of-way acquisitions — an $800,000 effort — started soon after. A very public dispute between Cuyahoga Falls and Krieger’s Health Foods Market, which stood to lose part of its parking lot, was eventually resolved, though there are still two outstanding court cases involving residential properties.
Stow Mayor Sara Drew said while the project will be disruptive, she’s confident motorists, residents and business owners will find it worth the effort.
“When this is done [I predict] everyone will be so happy with the final project, nobody will believe we lived with it as long as we did,” Drew said.
Paula Schleis can be reached at 330-996-3741 or firstname.lastname@example.org.