Despite the harsh winter weather in Northeast Ohio, the Fred Fuller Park bridge project is moving forward.
At its final meeting of 2012, the Kent City Council discussed the possibility of creating a temporary crossing for the Cuyahoga River to access the property. However, Parks and Recreation Director John Idone said the crossing isn’t realistic because of railroad company CSX, which has more than 20 trains per day pass along the tracks that border the park.
The city plans to begin construction this summer. The Ohio Bridge fund grant in the amount of $960,000 will constitute approximately 80 percent of the funding for the construction process, with the city responsible for the remaining amount.
The overall budget for the project is $1.1 million, not including $200,000 for design, environmental studies and other associated costs.
Advance work for the bridge thus far includes engineering plans and environmental impact studies. All of the advance costs, including the environmental study that identified a rare type of mussel in the river, are the city's responsibility.
Idone explained that the mussels are not designated as endangered, but they are rare and so the project must proceed with caution with any aspects that involve the water around the property.
The bridge has been closed since April 2011, more than a year sooner than it was originally scheduled to close. The project was postponed after the initial grant application was turned down in 2010. The funds from the Ohio Bridge grant will be available in July.
Safety issues causing the bridges early closure stemmed from the outdated construction methods used when the bridge was built in 1947.
The design of the bridge will also change from a five-span bridge to a three-span structure.
Park employees and the community have felt the impact of the closing. Workers who would use the bridge to access the property have not been able to do so and those who used the baseball fields at the park have been diverted to fields at Kent State University or in Brady Lake.
If the project stays on schedule, the construction will take six months. Jones Stuckey Ltd., a design firm with offices in Columbus and Akron, is designing the bridge, which will be approximately 180 feet long.