CHAGRIN FALLS — How will the closing of East Washington Street – during the major sewer and waterline replacement project – affect U.S. Postal Service branch office customers seeking services and voters wanting to cast their ballots Nov. 3 at polling booths located at the high school Performing Arts Center?

The short answer from village Administrator Rob Jamieson is it won’t.

“Customers will be able to access the post office traveling eastbound on East Washington Street. Post office customers are considered “local traffic” and can pass around the road closed signs at the Philomethian Street intersection,” he said in an email.

Mr. Jamieson added that upon leaving the post office, customers will travel eastbound only towards Cleveland Street to the Bell Street detour where two-way traffic is maintained.

On Election Day, Nov. 3, voters will be able to get to Chagrin Falls High School coming from both east and west lanes on East Washington Street.

Mr. Jamieson said it is considered a “crucial day” in the project schedule, and voter access will not be compromised.

Throughout the project, scheduled to conclude Dec. 1, only East Washington Street residents will be able to use the street during construction to get to their homes.

Pedestrians will still be permitted to use the sidewalks on East Washington Street. That includes children walking or biking to and from the Intermediate School as well as the campus with the middle and high schools with access off East Washington.

“Sidewalks will be available at least one side of the street at a time within the work zone,” Mr. Jamieson noted. Sidewalk areas under construction will be barricaded as needed to identify hazard areas.

“Children and parents will be able to walk to school through the work zone area on the sidewalks using caution,” he said, adding that both the project inspector and contractors have been advised to be aware of and assist pedestrians where needed.

In addition to kids, voters and post office customers, Mr. Jamieson said care has been taken to minimize disruption for motorists detouring around the East Washington Street, a major access road to the village.

“We have come up with a plan we believe will achieve this and we will be monitoring the traffic flows closely and will make additional modifications as needed and as possible,” he said.

Traffic will be detoured to Bell Street for the full road closure periods. Signage has been posted for the detour route. This schedule is approximate and subject to change due to weather and project variables.

“We are asking for everyone’s patience and understanding as we  complete this essential underground work,” the village administrator said, adding that engineers and project contractors are working to “minimize disruption and inconvenience during this major project.”

The long-needed renovation of the water and sewer lines under East Washington Street – much of which is more than 100 years old – has become a fluid situation with the announcement this week that the order of block-by-block street closures has changed.

The detour remains Bell Street to Ridgewood Road. Access will be maintained for East Washington Street residents in an eastbound direction only.

The first phase of the project – Cleveland Street to Ridgewood Road – is nearing completion, but the order of work changed to East Washington Street between Cleveland and Philomethian streets. That began this week.

The following phase between North Main and Philomethian Street begins Sept. 28 and continues through Nov. 6.

The final section of East Washington, between Ridgewood Road and Billy Campbell Drive, will be done between Nov. 2 and Nov. 27, according to village officials.

Work in the section east of Ridgewood Road as well as the paving work throughout the entire project area will not require a full road closure with traffic managed by flaggers for both phases.

Mr. Jamieson elaborated on the necessity for the work, noting that the sanitary sewers that are being relined and waterlines that are being abandoned were installed in 1904 and earlier.

“Were we not maintaining them, emergency and more disruptive repairs would likely be required in the future and at a higher future cost,” he said.

The project is funded by low-interest loans from the Ohio Environmental Protection Agency and a grant from the Ohio Public Works Commission.

Chagrin Falls Mayor William Tomko said the East Washington Street utility project has been in the planning stages for two years.

“No one should be surprised by anything we are doing nor not understand why it is necessary,” he began.

“We  have talked about this for two years now, held a Zoom meeting on it this spring and it was subject of numerous public meetings over the last two years, and a month ago we created no stopping zones on Bell Street to keep (detoured) traffic flowing.”

New sanitary sewer lines had to be done because it is the “lowest cost means of reducing ground water infiltration into our sanitary sewers, which results in raw sewage being dumped into the river,” he said. The village must do this to maintain its state EPA permit to continue to operate the sewer plant, he added.

“If we did not eliminate the leaking sewers to reduce ground water entering the system, we would have to build new and much larger retention tanks in River Run park at an engineer’s estimated cost of $8 million plus,” he noted. “And we still would have to replace the underground sewer at an additional cost which would mean even higher water and sewer rates.”

Mayor Tomko noted that every East Washington Street resident will receive a free video of their lateral lines, which connect homes to the street. This could have cost hundreds of dollars if done by a commercial service, he said.

Residents are now deciding if they will have their laterals relined at the same cost the village is paying, which, he said, is likely a fraction of the cost if done separately and privately. Sewer clean-outs have also been included for residents’ convenience.

“This sewer project will go a long, long way to prevent sanitary sewer backups into their basements,” he added, explaining that it had ruptured twice in the last five years at a repair cost of almost $100,000 “and should have been abandoned years ago.”

In addition to the new underground utilities, East Washington Street will be resurfaced. The last time was in the 1990s when the state disowned Route 422 and turned its section (East Washington Street) over to Chagrin Falls after the freeway was completed.

At this point, Mayor Tomko estimated that the road surface has outlived its useful life by 10 to 15 years.

“When the project is completed, there will be a new sewer line good for an estimated life of 50 years, no old waterline to break and a resurfaced road.”

A veteran reporter and columnist, Barbara Christian has been covering Chagrin Falls since 1967 and is currently responsible for Chagrin Falls village events, government and school board news along with her weekly column "Window on Main Street."

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