By SHELLEY TERRY
ASHTABULA TOWNSHIP —
Motorists who frequent the shopping corridor of Route 20, from Route 11 to Cook Road, soon will see bulldozers demolishing two familiar businesses.
The Ohio Department of Transportation is in the early stages of the $6.5 million resurfacing and road-widening project that includes tearing down Top Nails’ salon, 3508 N. Ridge E., and M&R Trailer Sales, which includes a garage and the owner’s home at 3521 N. Ridge E.
The owners must vacate the property by the first of November.
Eric Tran, owner of Top Nails, has built a new, larger salon behind the one ODOT will demolish in a few weeks. Tran opened the new salon Monday. He said he’s lucky he already owned the property in back of the old salon, because he couldn’t afford to buy land and build.
“I live in Ashtabula and work in Ashtabula and employ five people,” he said. “The state low-balled me on everything and didn’t give me enough money to build. The county should have helped me.”
Tran doesn’t understand why Route 20 needs all this widening, and he doesn’t understand why it will need sidewalks on both sides of the road.
William Lilac, owner of M&R Trailer Sales, agreed.
“The state is putting me out of business and out of my home,” he said. “I have been in my home for 35 years and I would have had to declare bankruptcy if it had not been for Congressman Dave Joyce (R-Geauga County).”
The Lilacs said Joyce was the only person who went to bat for them. Now, they are packing up everything and moving out. They say they can’t afford to re-start their business and buy a another house, too.
Brent Kovacs, ODOT public relations officer for District 4 in Akron, said the Lilacs voluntarily gave up their house and the state gave them their asking price. He also said any business that relocates is given a fair “business reimbursement.”
The Route 20 project is expected to go out to bid in May 2014, Kovacs said.
“There is a section from Ridgewood Road to Cook Road that will be widened from four lanes to five lanes,” he said. “The widening is for a two-way left turn lane.”
Tran said he believes the state is widening Route 20 and putting in wide sidewalks to benefit Wal-Mart — it’s all about Wal-Mart.
“It’s a case of the big guy running over the little guy,” he said.
According to ODOT, this section of Route 20 ranks in the top 200 locations in the state (No. 75 in 2002 and No. 21 in 2009) for crash rate. Crashes are predominately related to turning vehicles. These crashes mostly include angle crashes related to driveways, rear end and passing side swipes related to left turning vehicles blocking the center lanes, ODOT reports.