They were all there: Local mayors, including Avon’s Jim Smith and Sen. Gayle Manning, State Rep. Matt Lundy, project and city engineers, as well as the day-to-day workers, such as project manager Dom Damyanic and ODOT employees, who worked on the Nagel Road Interchange.
But at 10:15 a.m. this morning, after Smith and others “cut the ribbon,” all eyes were on the new I-90 Nagel Road Interchange as an All Pro Freight tractor trailer honked its horn and drove down a ramp of the interchange, marking its official opening.
Cooperation, for the most part, was the theme of the day as Smith credited the city of Westlake with opening Avon Road, which provided a direct route to the interchange as well as alleviated potential truck traffic.
“It’ll take about 35 percent of the traffic off of (State Route) 83, as well as 15 to 18 percent off of Crocker-Bassett,” Smith said.
Smith said the interchange was created for “No. 1, safety reasons and economic development.”
Smith noted that most of the land surrounding the interchange was owned by commercial developers, such as the Jacobs Group.
“They didn’t buy the land to hold onto it,” Smith said of the developers. “That’s taxes for our city, the county, our school system.”
The interchange is expected to be part of the reason area companies such as Jenne Distributors, Henkel and Custom Culinary are able to expand.
Dollars and cents
The interchange is believed to be the first in the state of Ohio privately financed. The city used TIFs (Tax Incremental Financing) in part to finance. The Jacobs Group also financed about one-third of the $27 million project. He doesn’t expect that any money will come out of the city’s General Fund.
The project faced significant obstructions over the years including NOACA, who utilized a “weighted vote” Smith said, in an effort to prevent the project.
“I refer to it as a ‘Louisiana crab cage,’” Smith said. “Down there they throw the crabs in a cage with no lids on them because every time one of them tries to escape the rest of the crabs try to drag him back in, and we were being dragged back in a lot of times.”
Smith estimated the city saved about $500,000 by opening approximately 8 months ahead of schedule. The project broke ground in September of 2011.
“I can retire happy now,” Smith said just prior to the Dec. 20 opening. “I didn’t think this thing was ever going to get done. This was the toughest thing we ever done. We were a small city when this started; now we’re a medium-sized city.”
Smith said getting the project to fruition was trying.
“There were a lot of sleepless nights,” he said. “My dog, Pugsly, he’s 13 years old. I was hoping to get this done before he passes. He and I would be out here at 2 or 3 in the morning.
“You’re thinking about financing … you’re thinking about the Clinic — you promised people you were going to get it done and now you have to.”
The interchange, near the new Cleveland Clinic building, was a major reason the Clinic located in Avon. The Cleveland Clinic closed its Westlake facility to move to Avon.
Jack Kahl, the CEO of Manco, expressed faith in Smith.
“When Jim said it would open, I believed him, Kahl said, adding he recalled project discussions with Smith in 1996. “As long as you can see the future, you can wait for it.”
Kahl said his truckers were excited for the opening. Area trucks utilized a temporary road that was referred to locally as the “Ho Chi Minh” trail, a logistical system that provided support during the Vietnam War.
Avon project manager Dom Damyanic said the logistics of moving traffic around, including creating temporary roads, opening and closing roads and getting traffic through, was the most difficult part of the actual constructing of the Interchange.
"I'm taking next week off," Damyanic said.