NORTON, Ohio — A bridge that collapsed nearly three years ago from heavy rains could finally be on a path to a fix.
The washed-out Kungle Road bridge on the Norton/New Franklin border has led to years of debate over the proper jurisdiction of the crossing and frustration from residents who have been fed up looking at the gaping hole.
But Summit County leaders believe the bridge is on the road to repair and feel confident that state funding will come through on a proposed project by July.
Greta Johnson, director of communications for Summit County Executive Ilene Shapiro, said a committee, chaired by Shapiro, recently gave the project its highest score, making it very likely that funding will be secured from the Ohio Public Works Commission.
"It means there's a light at the end of Kungle Road, that we are approaching the place where construction can begin and they will start to see improvements in that area," Johnson said.
Johnson said the city of Norton requested $950,000 from the state for the Eastern Road Reconstruction project, which includes repair work for the bridge. Summit County has committed to matching $200,000 if the state funds the project.
"I know that sounds like a lot of bureaucracy, but every level of government is working towards a solution that will be agreeable," Johnson said.
Phyllis Osborne, who lives on the New Franklin side of Kungle Road, has been critical— especially towards the city of Norton— over the slow pace of finding a solution.
Following the collapse, there was much debate regarding if the bridge was the responsibility of New Franklin or Norton. The Summit County Engineer determined it was in Norton's jurisdiction.
"It's just been a headache," Osborne said. "A disaster waiting to happen, a disaster that it has been left this long."
Osborne and her husband, Joel, have worried that a child could fall into the giant hole and get hurt. They have also been aggravated by the detours and voiced concerns over potential response times for emergency crews.
Osborne said the conditions at the site of the collapse keep getting worse.
"There's more deteriorating at the bridge. I was just down there last week and walked, and the whole other side of it is falling in the water with all this rain and stuff we've had," she said.
Not everyone who lives on Kungle Road wants the bridge rebuilt the way it was.
Glenn Motz is happy there is less traffic on the road and the chances of serious accidents have been reduced at nearby intersections, he said.
He agrees it has taken too long for government officials to come up with a solution, but he would like the project money used to create a cul-de-sac on each side.
"I absolutely agree that this should have been fixed a long time ago and it's a safety problem," Motz said. "But I think if it's done correctly, and they put a cul-de-sac in here with a nice turnaround that's lit, then there's no fight between Norton and New Franklin on who owns what."
Johnson said if funding is approved, as expected, Norton could potentially start working on the project this summer.
Osborne said she's happy to hear that, but will remain skeptical until she sees actual construction.
"I just hope it's true. I really do. I hope it's on the right track going forward."
News 5 left a message for Norton Mayor Mike Zita and City Administrator Robert Fowler to inquire about the project, but there was no response as of Monday evening.