Fix for frequent flooding coming to stretch of highway in Streetsboro

A permanent fix for part of a flood-prone roadway in Streetsboro began Tuesday. The multi-million dollar project on State Route 303 was scheduled to begin on Monday but, ironically, was delayed by flooding from heavy rains that left two drivers stranded after they reportedly disregarded the barricades.

A 19-year-old woman and 59-year-old man were both cited by Streetsboro police after both had to be rescued on Monday when their vehicles became inoperable in the floodwaters. Both water rescues happened on Ohio 303, a stretch of roadway west of the city center that is prone to frequent flooding.

Lieutenant Patricia Wain said the drivers put all involved at risk.

“They’re putting everybody at risk. The driver is at risk, because you don’t know what’s underneath that water. You don’t know if it’s structurally sound or has it washed out,” said Wain. “You have to have rescue crews go out. They’re putting themselves in jeopardy having to go out in that. Then we have to have tow truck drivers that go out in the water. Part of the area is protected, so we can’t have vehicles just sitting there out in the water. [The cars] have to be removed.”

Depending on the car's speed, as little as six inches to a foot of water can lift most vehicles off of the roadway. The floodwaters on OH-303 near Tinker’s Creek Monday eclipsed a depth of two feet.

The fines for disobeying the traffic signs are $150 - and that’s just the beginning.

“The one driver might have saved five minutes taking the shortcut through the water had she not gotten stuck,” Lt. Wain said. “Since she did, that’s several hours out of her day, plus a citation, plus tow fees, plus damage to her vehicle. She didn’t even make it to work anyway.”

The irony of Monday’s flooding wasn’t lost on city officials. The preliminary work on revamping part of OH-303 was to begin that day. When complete, the multi-million dollar project will elevate part of the road that’s currently inside of a large bowl-shaped area. Runoff that backs up in the nearby Tinker’s Creek watershed will often collect in the bowl, spilling across the roadway. 

“The 303 area has plagued this city for probably 50 years, if not more,” said Mayor Glenn Brooks. “It’s become quite a big wetland area. If you can’t move water downstream, it sits. That’s essentially what happens: the water sits there.”

While the construction project will address the primary flood area, it will remedy the secondary flood area, which is located west of Jefferson Street. At that location, Tinker’s Creek meanders to a point where it’s adjacent to the roadway. That part of OH-303 cannot be elevated because it is in an environmentally-protected wetlands area. That being said, the mayor said crews will install a larger culvert under the road. That larger pipe will allow water to pass through quicker, he said.

“There is nothing we could do to completely stop the flooding there,” the mayor said. “But if we can cut the frequency and cut the duration, that’s a worthy goal.”

The entire project, much of which is being funded through a federal grant, is expected to take until late October. The project remains on a tight schedule, the mayor said.

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