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Business owner, drivers share safety concerns over Rt. 21 Independence bridge project

Employees claim they can't see on-coming traffic
Business owner, drivers share safety concerns over Rt. 21 Independence bridge project
Posted at 10:17 PM, Apr 18, 2022

INDEPENDENCE, Ohio — William Koteles said his employees are dealing with a potentially hazardous blind spot on a daily basis as they try to pull out of his Independence business, Pemco Inc. due to an ongoing bridge replacement project on Brecksville Road.

Koteles told News 5 the bridge being replaced on Route 21 over I-480 has traffic down to just two lanes, and has seriously limited viability to northbound traffic due to signs, barriers, equipment and fencing. Koteles said the Ohio Department of Transportation project, which is set to go on through November, has caused too many near-accidents in just its first two weeks.

“They have equipment parked right now and it keeps moving and rotating; it’s very difficult to see," Koteles said. "It’s putting people at risk to a level that I’ve never seen, and like I said, I’ve been here 50 years."

“Somebody could get killed, or seriously hurt," Koteles added. "You look north you don’t see anything, you look south and there's a car. I mean I’ve pulled out so many times and I’m like, 'Where did this guy come from?' because they’re doing 50 mph.”

Pemco employee Chris Koteles said he had a near accident on April 16 and hopes ODOT and the City of Independence will do more to increase traffic viability in the coming weeks.

"As soon as I saw him it was too late," Koteles said. "I slammed on my brakes, he swerved left, and it was lucky no one else was coming up the hill.”

“If you want my honest opinion, somebody could get killed if you get t-boned right there. At minimum they need to slow the speed down, there’s no signs up anywhere, it’s still 35 mph," he said. “I think what they should do is put a blind spot mirror up on one of those poles, so we can actually see somebody coming northbound.”

News 5 contacted ODOT about this story and it responded immediately, and issued the following statement:

Since Pemco has talked to the contractor we have moved the portable outhouse and the two signs by portable outhouse. We will also park the excavator away from their driveway when it is not in use. Finally, we have created a hole in the construction cones for Pemco only, so when you turn right from Pemco you can drive behind the construction cones and merge into traffic safely,

News 5 also contacted the City of Independence about this case and both ODOT and the city agreed to look further into improving viability and safety at the bridge replacement site. News 5 will follow up on this developing story.

Still, William Koteles has some of his own ideas on how to make that project safer for all drivers.

"They should lower the speed limit to 25 mph as a construction zone," Koteles said. "The traffic light before the bridge, if they could time it so we could see that the light was red, then there’s a good chance that no one would be coming, making it safer for everyone.”

Those who have ODOT project traffic or safety concerns can use the ODOT Help Center on it's website.