By Timothy Cox
Driving along Celina-Mendon Road will remain a "nuisance" through late autumn, but when the heavily traveled county road fully reopens, it will be wider and safer, Mercer County Engineer Jim Wiechart said.
The 8.2-mile project between Ohio 197 and the village of Mendon includes widening the road up to four feet in some places, shoulder and ditch work to rid the roadside of existing steep drop-offs and complete repaving.
The nearly $2.5 million project is the county's largest federally-assisted local road project ever, Wiechart said. The Federal Highway Administration is providing 80 percent of the funding, with local shares of gasoline taxes paying for the $496,700 local share.
The large federal grant continues a string of successes for the county engineer's office in getting local road and bridge projects federal assistance.
"We've been really aggressive and really fortunate," Wiechart said. "They don't spread (federal highway assistance) out evenly. Unfortunately, only a small percentage of our county roads qualify." Jutte Excavating, Coldwater, is the general contractor with a number of subcontractors also working on the project, Wiechart said. Work is progressing well, he said, with tentative completion set for late this year. As with other infrastructure work, weather will play a factor, he said.
Portions of the road will be closed from time to time as crews work, especially when bridges and culverts are being replaced. Bridge work north of U.S. 30 is already finished. Local access to homes and businesses will be maintained.
"Obviously, for the people who live and work along the road, it's going to be a nuisance for a while. But they're going to end up with a much safer road," Wiechart said.
Much of the existing road, which runs between Celina and Mendon with two 90-degree turns, is only 20 feet wide. The project will make the pavement 24 feet wide and many of the menacing drop-offs into side ditches will be gone, Wiechart said.
"It does get a decent volume of traffic. This should be a big improvement," Wiechart said.
Where the project ends at the Mendon village limits, another large grant-assisted project will move forward late this year or early next year. Mendon officials plan to use a state grant earmarked for economically distressed communities, state Issue II money and other local assistance to pay for the estimated $760,000 reconstruction of Main Street from the village limits to the village hall in the middle of town.
Work will include a new water main, complete rebuilding of the road surface, widening in some places, new curbs, sidewalks and gutters, and sanitary sewer work. Completion of that project is tentatively slated by May 1, 2005.
"Our project will dovetail well into their project," Wiechart said. "Hopefully as our project is getting done, their project will be getting started."