Fifteen months ago, I wrote a column about a veteran paramedic who said the streets around two of Akron’s main hospitals were so bad that his patients were physically suffering because of them.
“Literally a day does not go by that a patient doesn’t complain about our roads,” he said.
At times, he told me, ambulance drivers take longer routes to avoid the roughest stretches, delaying the treatment of patients in exchange for reducing the pain from the jostling.
Well, 15 months later, the streets are even worse.
Have you driven on the left side of West Exchange Street near Children’s Hospital and Cleveland Clinic Akron General? If so, you probably also have driven to the dentist for treatment for a loose tooth.
When I talked to the city last time, I was told that big construction projects in the area, requiring frequent dump-truck trips, were the major cause — but that contractors are required to “maintain and repair disrupted areas within the city rights-of-way and easements.”
So much for that concept.
I also was told that cuts in federal and state spending on local communities had slashed the paving budget. But it seems to me streets around a city’s major hospitals should be very near the top of the priority list.
Given that parts of West Exchange and Cedar will be converted to two-way traffic at some point, I figured perhaps the city had let things deteriorate this far because it planned to repave for the changeover.
In case you missed it, West Exchange from the innerbelt to South Main Street (currently westbound only) and Cedar from South Main to High (currently eastbound only) will be converted.
Akron Service Director John Moore confirms the city will do a full repaving in preparation for the changeover — but not until late this year.
Why not do it now and just restripe it later? Because, he says, the whole area is being reworked, with new walks and other features that will require ripping up the existing street. The work has already begun and will continue all summer.
The whole project won’t be finished until December, and the traffic pattern won’t be switched over until early next year.
Meanwhile, my award for Worst Concrete Road in Summit County goes to … Heritage Woods Drive, which starts at state Route 18, directly across the street from Akron General’s Montrose facility.
OK, I haven’t been on every concrete road in Summit County, but Heritage Woods is essentially a half-mile-long rumble strip. Not a single seam is lined up.
Copley Township generally does a great job at maintaining its roads, but this stretch is hideous.
It’s not for a lack of trying. Here’s how many years Copley has spent money trying to fix Heritage Woods Drive: 2005, 2006, 2007, 2009, 2010, 2011, 2012, 2013 and 2015 — and they’re going to try again this year.
Copley Service Director Mark Mitchell says the road was originally built in 1985 and extended two years later. Given that concrete roads generally have a lifespan of about a quarter-century, he thinks Heritage Woods “has held up pretty well.”
Copley budgets $175,000 to $200,000 annually to replace sections of its 39 concrete roads, and Heritage Woods has consistently been the top priority.
Mitchell says paving over the concrete with asphalt wouldn’t solve the problem because the concrete will keep moving and open up cracks wherever there’s a seam. One short-term solution would be to plane the road smooth, but that costs at least 50 grand and would only last a few years.
He puts the blame not on the original contractor or troublesome soil conditions but mostly on his own shoulders. A slew of new subdivisions have gone up alongside the street since 2005, and yet another one, adding 31 more homes, is in progress now.
“It made sense to me to only have one road take the pounding these heavy vehicles cause during all these construction projects,” Mitchell says. “That way, when the projects near their completion ... I only have to consider making repairs or replacement of one road and one road only.”
Makes sense. But for the drivers who use that road regularly, a replacement date can’t come soon enough.
Bob Dyer can be reached at 330-996-3580 or firstname.lastname@example.org. He also is on Facebook at www.facebook.com/bob.dyer.31.