The Repaving of Elyria Drive


Bill Rumble

Nobody on Elyria Drive can remember the last time the City repaved our street.

My neighbor Stanley claims that it was more than 85 years ago. He should know. For a year now, he's been calling the City and asking them to fix the street. He asks each city bureaucrat to look through their records and tell him the last time the road was resurfaced. None of the folks from the City can find a document authorizing the job and they've looked through more than eighty years of work orders.

When you drove down Elyria, it was easy to imagine that the road was last fixed when Calvin Coolidge was president and trendy women, called "flappers," were dancing the Charleston. Chunks of asphalt bordering Elyria Canyon were worn down by vehicular traffic, would start to break free of the street and, when they did so, crumbled and fell into the canyon, forcing drivers to detour around them. Potholes abounded. The street dipped and, close to the hillside, slumped.

So, back in November, when the City formally notified residents that Elyria would soon be repaved, most of my neighbors were pleased by the news. Several were displeased, however. They insisted that the City had not provided sufficient advance, written notice to the residents regarding the resurfacing of the street. Apparently, these folks contacted the City and demanded that the project not go forward. The squeaky wheels got oiled. The repaving was postponed until April. Two weeks later, the rains started. Maybe the postponement wasn't such a bad idea after all, some neighbors commented. It WAS a mighty wet year.

However, when April turned into May and then into June, folks got restive and started to grumble that the work would never get done. Just as spirits were starting to sink, residents came home from work to find notices taped to their mailboxes advising them that the repaving project would take place later in the month and continue over a three-week period.  More phone calls followed. They revealed that the work would occur in two phases. One or two days would be required for the surface of the street to be torn up and scraped down to the original concrete road bed. Several days later, the length of Elyria would be repaved with a three-inch layer of new asphalt. Residents would have to park their cars up on San Rafael or some adjacent street from 6:30 AM to 4 PM on work days. 

A new cycle of life enveloped Elyria. Either late at night or early in the morning before a work day, you parked your car at the top of the hill and hiked back to your house. As you did so, you noticed a strange phenomenon. Instead of feeling irritated by the inconvenience of having to walk on the slowly-crumbling sidewalks, you began to run into your neighbors. You'd pause and pass a few minutes in conversation. You might begin by commiserating over the condition of the road and the inconvenience of the daily hikes, but then you'd get excited over the prospect of the new road and how smooth it would be. Folks offered each other rides. You'd joke with the road crews. On the day the street was being torn up, Carol and I were struggling up the hill and had to navigate among the workers while they were on a well-deserved break. She pointed to the newly-scraped roadbed and asked "What are you guys doing?"

"That's what we call 'grinding'," one worker replied.

"Ooooh, I thought that was a dance!" she shot back.

The entire road crew dissolved in laughter.

By Friday, June 24, the new asphalt had been laid down, the work cones and official notices removed, and the new Elyria Drive debuted.  Residents drove up and down the street with blissful smiles on their faces. As my next-door neighbor, Scott Burleigh, drove past, on his first cruise up the street, I yelled out to him, "It's like you're driving in a brand-new car!" He smiled back, "...Or at least on a new set of tires!"

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