CUYAHOGA FALLS — With about three months to go this year, a $5.9 million reconstruction of about two-thirds of a mile of Howe Avenue is progressing well, according to state and local officials.

Meanwhile, business leaders along the road said they are seeing a decline in customers, but are looking forward to the thoroughfare being fully repaired next year.

Akron-based Kenmore Construction is replacing the current concrete road with asphalt on Howe Avenue between state Route 8 and Buchholzer Boulevard. The project also includes drainage, curbs, sidewalks, lighting and new signage.

Justin Chesnic, public information officer for Ohio Department of Transportation, said the construction work is running on schedule.

“The project is going really well,” said Chesnic, who added his office had not received any complaints from motorists or businesses. “The contractor is doing a great job out there.”

Although there was a lot of rain earlier in the summer, Chesnic said the project “was never delayed,” and added that Kenmore typically maintains a six-day workweek.

“If it rains on a Wednesday, they can just make it up on a Saturday and it’s not costing us any extra money,” Chesnic said. “They’ve just been able to expedite it.”

Chesnic said sidewalks are being replaced at the same time that the crew is working on the corresponding section of road. He added that traffic signals will be replaced at the end of the project next year.

The project was divided into an eastern portion (from the McDonald’s entrance to Buchholzer) and a western portion (Main Street to the McDonald’s entrance). The eastern half is being done this year, and the western half will be done next year.

Chesnic said pavement is being replaced on the north side of Howe between McDonald’s and Buchholzer through late October. Pavement replacement on the south side was finished earlier in the year.

While this work is happening, eastbound Howe is closed from Main Street to Buchholzer, while westbound Howe remains open to traffic, Chesnic said. Vehicles traveling east on Howe Avenue are being detoured south on Home, east on Independence Avenue and north on Buchholzer. Motorists can access businesses along Howe by using the frontage streets that are behind those buildings.

After the McDonald’s-to-Buchholzer work is completed in October, construction will be put on hold until May. At that time, Chesnic said, the western half of Howe will be repaved from the McDonald’s driveway west to Main Street.

 

Few traffic issues

 

Cuyahoga Falls City Engineer Tony Demasi said feedback has been “relatively positive,” and the owners of the Plaza at Chapel Hill told him they are happy with the progress.

“I'd like to remind motorists to drive with caution through the construction zone, carefully read detour signs, and watch out for the road workers,” Demasi added.

Tallmadge Police Chief Ronald Williams said that the project has “surprisingly had not any effect on us at all.”

“We’ve just avoided any real problems with the whole project so far,” Williams said.

Cuyahoga Falls Police Chief Jack Davis added there have been “no real issues” and added there are “ways for the officers to get around as well as the public.”

Davis said his officers typically spend “quite a bit of time” in the Howe Avenue area, and Cuyahoga Falls Police Capt. Steve Guldeman added the department has not conducted any additional patrols during the project.

“Everything has been relatively smooth,” Guldeman said. “People have adjusted well to the traffic pattern.”

Akron Police Capt. Dave Laughlin said when the Route 8 entrance and exit ramps were closed at the start of the project, his department observed a slight increase in traffic volume on Tallmadge Avenue because that road was used as a detour. He said the department did extra patrolling in that area for a couple of days while the ramps were closed to quickly address crashes or broken-down vehicles.

The closure of eastbound Howe Avenue for the current phase of the project hasn't caused any issues, said Laughlin, who noted he was “not aware of any increase in traffic crashes [or] traffic complaints.”

 

Business down

 

Business owners and managers said they are trying to adjust to a decrease in customers while the road work is happening.

“Business is down with it being harder for folks to get here,” said Matt Trayer, manager of Play It Again Sports.

He noted the project is seen as “enough of an inconvenience that people don’t bother,” adding “plenty of people” have told him on the phone that they’ll go shop somewhere else. He added he’s also observed that traffic volume is lower since the project started.

On the positive side, Trayer said his business has “a very loyal customer base and people come here with their kids every year and that helps us out.”

“It’ll be nice when the project’s over and I’m looking forward to having that road all fixed up,” Trayer said.

Juan Rodriguez, owner of El Papa’s Mexican Bistro, said business was “really, really slow” in the first month after construction started, and noted that since construction began, “we lost probably 30 to 35% of our business.”

He said that overall the business has been “hurt a little bit, but thank God, we’re OK.”

Rodriguez added he felt the road needed to be improved.

“That road is very bad,” Rodriguez said. “They needed to fix it.”

Joe Fallucco, a manager at Mr. Bulky’s Foods, said the impact of the project has “not been as bad as we anticipated.” He acknowledged that the closure of the Route 8 ramps in the early stage of the project made it “pretty rough,” but the situation improved after those ramps were reopened.

Fallucco said his store prepared for this challenging situation by bringing in more new products. He noted he and his employees are excited for this year’s project to be wrapped up in the fall. Fallucco said he expects there will be wall-to-wall people in the store during the holiday shopping season.

Information on the Howe Avenue project can be found at www.howeavenue.com.

 

Phil Keren can be reached at 330-541-9421, pkeren@recordpub.com, or on Twitter at @keren_phil.