There seems to be little love for Cooper Foster Park Road among local drivers.
We’ve received a number of calls and emails recently complaining about the condition of the business corridor and asking when repairs are coming.
The good news is that the stretch from Rt. 58 to Oberlin Avenue will be shut down and completely rebuilt in 2019.
The roadway is jointly owned, with Lorain responsible for the north (westbound) lane and Amherst responsible for the south (eastbound) lane. The cities are pooling their resources and tapping grant funding for an estimated $4.9 million repaving effort.
Facebook users were savage when asked about their opinions and experiences on Cooper Foster.
“It’s horrible!” responded Jeanne Kingsbury. “I drive down the middle of the road to avoid the holes… got a flat last year on it, refuse to get another! They should be ashamed of this road. It needs to be fixed now, not next year!”
“It’s awful,” wrote Sandi Morse. “I won’t go down it. And I will find another place to shop.”
“Both cities should be absolutely ashamed of this road. It’s needed paving for years now,” David Adkins wrote. “They ought to just block it off and not even use it.”
Exactly how bad is Cooper Foster?
We put the question to the test. Editor Jason Hawk and reporter Jonathan Delozier drove up and down the stretch over and over — nearly 20 trips over two weeks — to gauge the condition of the road.
Our verdict: It’s not as bad as you might think.
Yes, there are annoying bumps. The western-most portion of the Amherst side is in the worst condition, with badly patched seams every few feet near the Amherst Plaza entrances. They’re jarring, especially the closer you are to Rt. 58 and they even out the farther east you travel.
Many potholes have been fixed, at least temporarily. The target construction zone has zero existing potholes on the Amherst side of the road, and only three or four very small ones on the Lorain side, mainly along the white line where vehicles don’t typically travel anyway.
There’s also some crumbled pavement on the berm, as well as holes on the aprons of private business driveways. There are also a couple of sunken manholes along the route.
Overall, the Lorain side of the road is in much better shape than its Amherst counterpart. We found the ride east to be teeth-rattling at the posted speed limit, but reducing to 30 mph made the trip pretty bearable.
“I would agree it’s one of the worst roads in the city, but I don’t think it’s to the point where we should be ashamed of it,” mayor Mark Costilow told us.
“I think this has been ongoing too long. I’m disappointed in the cost, but this has been going on since long before I was involved,” he said.
Plans to resurface Cooper Foster go back to 2005. At the time, the city of Lorain did not commit money to a full paving project, so Amherst completed intermittent repairs on its side.
At least $520,000 in engineering has gone into planning the complete resurfacing job over the past decade, Costilow said.
Grant money that will be used to offset local taxpayer costs are well worth the wait, he argued. The Northeast Ohio Areawide Coordinating Agency has agreed to give $1 million in grants to Amherst and another $1 million to Lorain to help. Ohio Public Works Commission money will also be requested to offset the costs — likely around $500,000.
“For as rough as that road has been, I’m proud we’ve been able to extend it and get to this big project so we can do it right with $2 million worth of grant money,” Costilow said. He later added, “If we’d known 10 years ago what we know now, sure, we would probably have paved it right away. But it always looked like this project was right around the corner.”
That leaves Amherst’s portion of the price tag at around $1.43 million — which, remember, is just an estimate at this point. The city, if council members agree, will probably end up borrowing around $1 million to finance the expense.
The state will sell the construction job by bid sometime around November, with the project awarded to a firm in February 2019.
The completion timeline was originally two years. Costilow said he’s fairly confident it will now happen in just one year.
That’s important because the work could have a big impact on businesses along the Cooper Foster stretch. The mayor said he intends to start reaching out to business owners mid-summer. “We are going to do everything possible to maintain the traffic and advertise that your businesses are open,” he said.
There will be a one-way detour from west to east at all times, if possible and the goal is to have contractors do as much night work as possible, he said. Costilow also wants to offer incentives for completing the project on time or, better yet, ahead of schedule.
Jason Hawk can be reached at 440-775-1611 or @EditorHawk on Twitter.