By BOB JACKSON
VINDICATOR COURTHOUSE REPORTER
YOUNGSTOWN -- After years of delays and disappointment for local officials, the long-awaited widening of South Avenue in Boardman Township seems about to happen.
"We are pleased, pleased, pleased out here," said Curt B. Seditz, township administrator. "We have waited a long time for this."
Richard Marsico, Mahoning County engineer, said bids for the $4.4 million construction project will be solicited in October and opened in November. Construction could start shortly after that.
Here's the plan: The project will widen nearly two miles of South Avenue, between Presidential Drive and Western Reserve Road, from two lanes to five. Officials have said the expansion is needed to accommodate traffic demands in the area.
Plans originally called for making South Avenue four lanes. When the decision was made to add the fifth lane, which will be for left turns, it added at least a year to the project, which was supposed to have started in spring 2000.
The county had to buy more land along both sides of the road to make room for the fifth lane, which is largely what pushed the project so far behind schedule, Marsico said. The additional property would not have been needed for a four-lane project.
What it's costing: Buying more land also put a crimp in the budget. The property acquisition was first expected to cost about $1 million but ended up being three times that much.
Some of the purchase prices had to be established in common pleas court because the county and the owners could not agree.
That cost is separate from the construction cost and will come from the engineer's fund. The construction will be funded by the Ohio Engineer's Fund, Federal Highway Administration and the county engineer's office.
Marilyn Kenner, chief deputy engineer, said much of the extra cost is because the county will have to replace asphalt and concrete abutments in several parking lots along the project route.
Marsico said that within the next month, utility companies should start moving back electric and telephone poles and relocating wires to make way for the wider road.
"People should see some activity going on out there pretty soon," Marsico said. "It's moving along as planned."
The project will include resurfacing, storm sewer installation, pavement markings and signs.
Traffic lights: An added benefit will be installation of a traffic light at Western Reserve Road, something township residents have long requested, Seditz said.
Residents also have asked for traffic lights at McClurg and Walker Mill roads, but Kenner said traffic surveys have not shown that those lights are warranted.
"We'll keep an eye on those intersections after the widening, and if we think lights are needed, we'll work on it," Seditz said.
A fourth traffic hot spot along South Avenue is at Maple Avenue, which often gets lined with vehicles because it's used as a cut-through to avoid Route 224, Seditz said.
The township hopes to widen that intersection itself with state Issue 2 money, adding left-turn lanes to help keep traffic flowing.
Seditz said township officials expect the widening to be a gateway to further economic development in Boardman.
He pointed to growth that has taken place along a stretch of South Avenue already widened to five lanes, north of U.S. Route 224, and said he expects a similar boom at the other end.
This widening "is a really, really excellent project," Seditz said.