YOUNGSTOWN, Ohio (WKBN) – The City of Youngstown will spend $2.5 million to replace just one culvert.
Mahoning County spent the same amount on roads last year but repaved 22 roads with that money, including a long stretch of Western Reserve Road. So WKBN spoke to officials as to why the city plans to spend so much on one road — along Ella Avenue — where all of the homes have been torn down.
Ella Avenue sits near Youngstown’s East High School and sits largely empty. In fact, the city owns most of the empty lots.
The $2.5 million to replace the 55-year-old culvert will not be used to replace sidewalks or repave the road, rather, it will be used to replace the bridge.
Justin Chesnic, spokesman for the Ohio Department of Transportation, said the city estimate is too high. The culvert is in bad condition, but the state thinks the city has overestimated the replacement cost.
“I think that $2.5 million, and even the $1.8 million we are showing, is extremely high,” Chesnic said.
WKBN spent about two hours on Ella Avenue on Tuesday, and during that time, only four cars passed by. One of the drivers, Tonya Weaver, who works at East High School, said she does not believe the bridge should be replaced.
If the road closed, Weaver said she would take Euclid Avenue to the west or Lansdowne to the east. Both of those streets are only a half mile away.
She said the city should close the street, like it has done before.
“Ohio Avenue, they closed it off for years and finally just built a bridge for a walking path,” she said.
The last time it appears that anyone counted traffic on Ella Avenue was in 1995. A bridge inspection report then shows 500 cars traveling on the road in a day. The most recent bridge inspection report does not include a traffic count.
Representative John Boccieri, D-Poland, said he thinks the city might feel pressured to spend the money, because it is available for only this project from the state.
“It makes no sense why the state would hamstring a local community, like Youngstown, that has many needs on multiple fronts, to spend these kinds of resources on a road that has very few cars,” he said.
Youngstown Mayor John McNally was in meetings all day and was not able to discuss the project.