ASHLAND — Ashland City Council concluded its 14-minute meeting Tuesday out on the street, donning Highlighter-yellow hardhats.

Council members, along with Ashland Mayor Matt Miller, city staff and residents who happened to attend Tuesday’s meeting, met at the newly-built Claremont Avenue bridge to re-open the street.

The $1.6 million project concluded late last week as Adena crewmen paved the bridge. The city had planned a formal opening of the thoroughfare with a ceremony slated Oct. 7.

“But it’s ready to be opened. It was ready this morning,” Miller said as a city worker handed out hardhats. “So if the council is willing, we need to go outside and open up Claremont Avenue.”

The work was originally scheduled to last 125 days. Opening the road on Tuesday put the total days of the road being closed at 162.

The Claremont Avenue bridge serves as an overpass to the city’s Town Run creek. It has been estimated to be more than 100-years-old and sits next to the Ashland Municipal Building, which for months was only accessible from Broad Street.

Midway through the project, crews discovered contaminated soil from an old underground gas tank. They also found other issues, such as replacing parts of culvert that were too old to reuse and reconstructing a portion of county-owned retaining wall.

The original price tag of the project was $1.3 million, but the issues jacked up the expense by $325,000. However, much of that cost was covered by state grants from the Ohio Public Works Commission and the Ohio Department of Transportation.

Council members broke into pairs to move road closure signs to the sidewalks. But there weren’t enough of them, so Miller recruited six others to help.

“Hopefully, we don’t have to do this for another century,” Miller said.

So, city officials and residents moved the barriers. The first person to drive on the newly paved road did so cautiously, as if she was doubtful it could really be. But when an Ashland police officer waved her through, she tooted her white SUV’s horn and gave a thumbs up.

The opening of the bridge is the second of three projects to be completed — the first being the opening of the county’s first roundabout.

The next project involves repaving a section of Claremont Avenue between Smith and Baney roads. The city intended to get the road repaved this year, but a too-high bid came back. That prompted the city to repave some of the road, and save the rest for 2023.

Repaving Claremont Avenue was estimated to cost $3.6 million, with a city share of $1.4 million after the use of state grants.

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