Solon Engineer John J. Busch said he expected the “shock” factor when telling members of City Council’s Public Works Committee the $471,500 cost of the design associated with a proposed $6 million reconstruction project on Harper Road.

The committee ultimately approved the design cost, and recommended forwarding the legislation to the full City Council, which added its approval Monday.

Mr. Busch explained that, as requested by the committee, his engineering department requested a scope of work and fee proposal from Burgess & Niple engineers to develop plans and specifications to reconstruct Harper Road from Cannon Road to Miles Road.

The reconstruction of just over 1 mile of road would include the installation of curbing, the addition of an integral bike lane and a sidewalk on the east side of the road and a 10-foot multi-purpose path on the west side of the road. Other improvements will include new catch basins with a new storm sewer outletting to the ditch just north of Cannon Road.It is anticipated all drive aprons will be replaced as well. Temporary easements will be necessary from parcels on both sides of the street for grading and possible driveway grade changes.

The engineer’s estimate of the entire project is about $6 million, and the city intends to advertise the project for bid in 2021.

“I figured the numbers would give you a little shock value,” Mr. Busch told the committee. Because of that, he provided a comparison to a similar project for Aurora Road, which would reconstruct the road from Burger King to Liberty Road, roughly a mile just like the Harper project.

City Council approved the design of that project at $503,000, Mr. Busch reminded the committee.

“I thought this number (for Harper Road) was fair based on what had to be done with construction plans,” he said.

The reconstruction of Harper and Aurora are comparable in that they are switching sections from no curb to curb and changing small roadside drainage to new storm sewers.

The $471,500 fee also includes preparation of right-of-way entry documents for grading purposes, Mr. Busch said. This is needed due to the topography in the area.

Mr. Busch continued that the city has tried different things over the years on Harper Road. At one point, the road, which once had no pedestrian facilities, was re-striped to incorporate integral bike lanes when it was determined the road was wide enough.

“That may not be enough pedestrian comfort for some people,” Mr. Busch said.

With the proposed project, they will also have sidewalks and a multipurpose path which intersects with the Metroparks and expands pedestrian facilities, overall.

“Harper has always been on the radar,” Mr. Busch said, “but projects like Aurora took over and it took a back seat.”

Mr. Busch said the design would take roughly two years and construction about a year. “This has to be strategically aligned with other projects,” he said.

There will be much time associated with working with residents to get right of way entry in place with grading.

“I certainly would like to see it done,” Councilwoman Nancy E. Meany said. “The road is somewhat deteriorating. Am I happy with the price point for design? Not really.” But Mr. Busch did provide a comparison with Aurora Road, she said.

Councilman Marc R. Kotora asked if it would be prudent to just begin by adding sidewalks on the road.

Mr. Busch said his office looked at that option, but there are a lot of right-of-way changes, and it is not consistent throughout. “Some areas of the road are wider than others, and there is a lot of vegetation on both sides of the road,” he said. “Even if we wanted to put in sidewalks, we would have to do a lot of removal (of vegetation).

“Sidewalks would be sort of zigzagging around.”

This current proposal would put it more in a linear relationship, Mr. Busch said, where there would not be a lot of ups and downs with sidewalks.

“Ultimately for the long term, this proposal would be the best way to move forward versus trying to fit a sidewalk into the existing road,” Mr. Busch said.

Mrs. Meany also asked if there is any way the city’s engineering department can do the design in house.

“We could if we didn’t have other things going on,” Mr. Busch said. “It would take a lot of time and too much effort. We don’t have that manpower and with the variable of building permits as an unknown, I would not want to commit to something this large.”

Mrs. Meany said she would not mind getting this project on the radar. She said it is tough because residents have varying opinions on sidewalks, with some in favor and some opposed.

But benefits of this project include getting storm sewers on the road and potentially cutting down some of the blind spots on the road, Mrs. Meany added.

Mr. Busch reiterated that this project would connect a lot of sidewalks in the area, such as on Miles and Cannon roads, as well as the Cleveland Metroparks South Chagrin Reservation paths.

For the last decade, Sue Reid has covered the government, business climate and residents of Solon. A Times reporter for 22 years, Ms. Reid has earned commendations from the Ohio Newspaper Association and Cleveland Press Association.

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