Thursday, August 3, 2017

Rick K. Remembers: the Ohio Turnpike – Part 2

Front page of the Feb. 19, 1953 Chronicle-Telegram
showing the two proposed routes of the Turnpike through Elyria
(Courtesy Rick Kurish)
Along with his warm memories surrounding the construction of the Ohio Turnpike, Rick Kurish also remembers the controversy about the route through Elyria. "Since I was only about 6 to 8 years old at the time, my interest in the turnpike dealt only with the ability to travel to desired destinations in a relatively short time. However, others, especially in Elyria, had concerns regarding the impact on the city of the proposed route.

"There was a northern route (which was finally adopted), and a southern route that basically went through the city of Elyria. It took several years to sort through all the pros and cons, and the inevitable lawsuits, before the route was finalized.

“The way the routes were described was kind of confusing. The Turnpike commission route, which was the southern route, went through the north side of Elyria, while the Elyria city-preferred route would have been in the area where Interstate 90 is today.
"I was surprised at the resistance of various elements of city government to the route proposed by the Ohio Turnpike Commission. The legal fight started almost as soon as the initial route was surveyed, and lasted until the fall of 1954 – only a few weeks before the first eastern section of the turnpike was set to open in November. Because of the dispute, the roughly four-mile section of the road through Elyria was the final section in Ohio to be bid out. The city fought the commission route virtually until they started pouring the concrete! I have a hard time seeing what the big deal was."
Rick found a pair of great ads sponsored by the Elyria Chamber of Commerce that illustrated the effort to fight the Ohio Turnpike’s planned route through town.

"The ads from the CT of June 30, 1954 and July 6, 1954, would seem to indicate that the fight over the route had become rather intense.” (I like how the Turnpike Commission is depicted as a blackjack-wielding goon.)

"The city of Elyria may have had a rough several years before the turnpike was complete, but I was happy,” noted Rick. "I could get to Cleveland in a half hour!"
The December 1959 edition of the Rotarian magazine had a nice look back at the whole controversy.
It read, “In Elyria, Ohio, the proposed route of the new Ohio Turnpike was fought tooth and nail in 1954. The right of way was to skirt the northern part of the city, coming pretty close to an exclusive residential area, and it was from the wealthy and influential residents of this section that the most vocal opposition came. Much to-do was made of the “depreciation of valuable real estate” and the “withdrawal from the tax rolls of income-producing land” which, actually, was almost marshland.
“But in the end common sense prevailed and the proposed route went through as originally planned. “The immediate benefit,” says J. Grant Keys, who was Mayor of Elyria at the peak of the battle, “was the alleviation of a critical traffic problem on our streets. This alone was a gift which makes the other dividends pure velvet.
“The first of those was the immediate filing of plans for seven different housing developments along the proposed route. Thus, instead of reducing the tax rolls, the Turnpike promptly increased the ratables. And I was greatly amused to note that the lots which sold first for the highest prices were those immediately adjacent to the right of way!
“In the five years that have elapsed none of the dire prophecies have materialized: indeed, they have all been completely reversed. And today’s most avid promoters of the Ohio Turnpike are its erstwhile bitterest foes: the prominent industrialists, business and professional men who still live happily in the area which feared extinction, and whose advertising and promotion men busily extol the facility they fought because it has made Elyria 'the crossroads of the world.’”

Next: Move it!

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