A New Look for the Road That Built a Nation
by Nadine Morse
Reynoldsburg before and after.
At a time when facelifts are fashionable, the City of Reynoldsburg, Ohio has taken the procedure to a new level. In the fall of 2006, the community celebrated the completion of a four-year major facelift to their aging Main Street – an area that had fallen victim to time and neglect. Through the vision of City leaders and the expertise of some of Ohio’s finest engineers, architects and contractors; they were able to take a run-down, outdated commercial corridor dotted with an eclectic mix of retail, businesses and residential and, quite literally, breathe new life into it.
Where a lackluster metal city limits sign once stood, an elegant brick entry wall with illuminated brass lettering now greets visitors driving west on this section of the historic National Road. The 1.75 mile stretch is further enhanced by low, decorative brick walls that buffer parking, along with higher brick walls in selected areas that provide privacy and noise reduction to residents. Unattractive signage and crumbling sidewalks void of significant plantings have been replaced with uniform brick-based business signs, extensive landscaping and brick/concrete sidewalks.
The new, pedestrian-friendly corridor also is punctuated with historically designed metal benches and trash receptacles, as well as aesthetically pleasing traffic lights supported by decorative mast arms. All of these enhancements have been painted a burgundy-red to honor the City’s heritage as the birthplace of the first commercially grown tomato. Throughout the process, special care was given to preserve the existing historic US Route 40 markers that have become an integral part of the community.
Perhaps the most dramatic change to the corridor was burying the tangle of overhead utility wires into a duct bank running parallel with the road. The effect is so dramatic that it essentially takes the veil off of the community and opens it up to the skies. Along with the visual improvements, the community reaped the additional benefits of new waterlines and repaired storm sewers.
At a cost of $17.5 million for the two-phase project, the City tapped a wide range of sources to fund the major revitalization. City and state bond proceeds; street, water and storm sewer funds; a Community Development Block Grant; the Ohio Department of Transportation; and a fund drive that raised $200,000 all served to bring the historic vision to reality on time and under budget. The reinvestment in the community has already paid off substantially with at least $3 million in new development achieved since the improvements have been made.
With the successful completion of the Main Street Revitalization, a new energy and pride has spread throughout the community. That is certainly, in part, because the project has garnered two significant awards: a 2007 Scenic Ohio Award presented by the State of Ohio, and a 2007 ACEC Engineering Excellence Award (the Academy Awards of the engineering industry). More importantly, however, residents are proud to have taken part in restoring this once vibrant highway back to its glory days.