BROOKLYN, Ohio — After a nearly year-long closure, the heavily-traveled Memphis Avenue Bridge in the city of Brooklyn is set to officially re-open to all drivers on Monday, Jan. 30.
Cuyahoga County officials and the Mayor of Brooklyn confirmed the update to News 5's Mike Holden.
The bridge is opening ahead of schedule.
The traffic update brings joy to drivers and residents from near and far, like Brooklyn's own Emil Kotalik.
"Glad you told me that it's opening up Monday! I had no idea," Kotalik said. He's experienced the headaches and congestion firsthand for months.
"It's gonna make it easy," Kotalik said.
It's a major relief for the roughly 22,000 drivers who traveled the bridge near the Memphis Kiddie Park before the closure occurred.
"Do not enter" and "Sidewalk closed" signs have been a mainstay there since May of last year when it initially shut down for replacement work.
Construction crews are actively putting the finishing touches on the space ahead of Monday's rush hour commute.
City of Brooklyn Mayor Ron Van Kirk says businesses and residents have struggled at times due to the closure.
Many drivers were forced to hop on the highway or travel back roads to navigate around the closure, tacking on several minutes to their drive time.
The Memphis Avenue Bridge carries traffic through the Village of Linndale into Cleveland.
For many Lakewood commuters, it was a quicker route.
"It's been quite difficult going through there, primarily to the trucking company that is located down there on Memphis Avenue. They use that bridge on a daily basis for their trucking, and they've had to go the other way and go and get on 71 to drive around that," Mayor Van Kirk said.
Crews overhauled the 94-year-old, 108-foot by 60-foot bridge, working through all the elements and seasons.
The old bridge deck was deteriorating and becoming a safety issue for heavy truck traffic, according to Mayor Van Kirk.
A full-scale replacement was needed.
A combination of federal funding, the Ohio Public Works Commission and Cuyahoga County paid for the $5.8 million project.
The new bridge will feature a concrete facade to make it appear more aesthetically pleasing as well as a number of necessary safety enhancements.
"The bridge was actually widened from 44 feet to 52 feet, making it a bit wider. The sidewalk width was increased from a little under five and a half feet to six feet," Mayor Van Kirk said.
With major industry recently moving into Brooklyn — like Amazon and Medical Mutual at the former American Greetings site — city officials say the timing for the opening was essential and necessary.
Both locations are near the Bridge and have brought additional volumes of traffic to the area.
The morning and afternoon commutes have not been ideal. Mayor Van Kirk calls the bridge upgrade a timely game changer.
"That is a main entrance into our city and out of our city. So, it's vital that we get this opened up so that that traffic can continue. Our trucking partners down the ramp have been fantastic with this. It's been a very difficult time for them."
Although The Memphis Bridge officially re-opens to through traffic on Monday, Jan. 30, crews will still work on some additional upgrades in the spring.