The $11.2 million Wales Road overpass project, which began in May, is starting to take shape.
Residents are noticing mounds of dirt on Wales that will serve as the embankment of the overpasses or “bridges.”
“Three of the hills are already done. I think they’re probably at the final height. They got the dirt there,” said Northwood Mayor Mark Stoner.
The project entails the construction of two overpasses over the CSX and Norfolk Southern railroad tracks on Wales Road that would effectively eliminate three railroad crossings on Drouillard and Wales roads. As part of the project, Wales and Drouillard will be realigned south of their current locations.
“I hardly recognize the place,” Stoner said of the landscape that is being prepared for the overpasses.
“It’s pretty amazing. I grew up here. People are taking photos because it doesn’t take long before you forget what was there before. It’s going to be a change,” said Stoner.
Project crews are also performing drainage work and building the MSE wall, similar to a retaining wall for the bridges. The work will be ongoing through most of this year. Late fall and winter, work is expected to begin on the bridges.
“They got an early start on it and they’ve had some good weather,” said Stoner. “Drouillard is closed from Wales to Walbridge. They’re going to run some drainage tiles for storm water drainage. They’re really going great guns.”
Stoner is getting some complaints from motorists about Drouillard Road being closed for 60 days.
“Drouillard Road has been closed since Monday. I tell people you have to put up with some pain to end up with the finished product. In the long run, it will be well worth it. We’re going to get rid of two railroad crossings. There will be some inconvenience, no doubt about it.”
This year, Wales Road will remain open to traffic during construction.
The dirt for the fourth and remaining hill, closest to the municipal building on Wales, is going to be taken from the dirt mound near Woodville Road and I-280 across from Bob Evans Restaurant, said Stoner. Many residents, for years, have considered it an eyesore, with overgrown weeds and vegetation.
“Years ago, the Ohio Department of Transportation moved extra dirt that was excavated from another project it was working on to that location. They always said they were going to take it out some day. Now, they have permission to remove the dirt, and are using it for the overpass project. When it’s not raining, they’re hauling it out of there at a pretty good clip. Part of it will stay there for the slope of the ramps, but most will be taken for the overpasses.”
The purpose of the overpasses, as with other railroad grade separation projects, is to improve safety and eliminate delays. Wales Road is the only east-west road linking Northwood’s business district with its westerly neighborhoods.
“It’s always been about safety,” said Stoner. “There is no direct route east to west for our police and fire services without the risk of catching a train.”
The city, as a result, has a fire station on Wales Road and one on Tracy Road.
The project is being financed by 90 percent federal, 5 percent local and 5 percent railroad funds.
The city has been earmarking $100,000 per year for the last 10 years as part of its local match.
“The project is expected to be completed in 2014. A lot of it depends on how long they can work in the winter,” said Stoner.