With all the downtown construction, bridge construction, traffic signal construction and building construction going on all over town, I have a sense that one of our more significant planning projects has been lost behind all the detour signs lately.
That would be the Summit Street improvement project.
The project hasn’t really had as much air time in the media as I thought it would, although I admit that it’s hard to get as excited about traffic engineering plans on paper when you’ve got so much construction going on in the streets every day. Still, this project has great upside and is definitely worth of talking about.
Summit Street is a heavily traveled corridor, and as such it’s a gateway that has the potential to make a great positive statement about Kent and Kent State University. The good news is that positive statement is currently being scripted by the citizens and staff that have waded into the engineering and planning for the future of this corridor, so I thought I’d share some of the commentary between those groups as a way to offer some insight into the hard work and serious thinking going on in those planning rooms.
Like most things our City Engineers get involved with there was a problem that had to be fixed so they started the wheels turning — in this case the root problem was too much traffic congestion. In addition to coming up with congestion fixes, the citizens and staff have sought to leverage this $11 million project into another transformative type of infrastructure improvement that when completed will have a lasting impact that does more than just move cars faster from point A to point B.
It’s figuring exactly what that will look like that’s the tricky part. For starters here’s how the engineers characterize the project in typical direct (and mathematical) engineering style:
The Summit Street corridor, from Lincoln Street to Loop Road, is one of the most highly congested routes within the Portage/Summit County area. The Akron Metropolitan Area Transportation Study (AMATS), which calculates street capacities within the area, has determined this route has a LOS of “E.”
Level of Service (LOS) – A qualitative measure from A (best) to F (worst) describing operational conditions within a traffic stream, generally described in terms of such factors as speed and travel time, freedom to maneuver, traffic interruptions, comfort and convenience, and safety. LOS is measured by degree of volume to capacity ratio.
The Summit Street Traffic Signal Coordination project is being coordinated with Kent State University and involves the installation of new traffic signals with central coordination from Water Street to Loop Road along the Summit Street corridor.
Included in the design will be turning lanes where appropriate and access management. This will reduce the number of access points (drives/streets) entering onto Summit Street. The project will also attempt to limit pedestrians and vehicular conflicts along the corridor.
- Citizens Advisory Committee has completed their study of alternatives and has provided direction on alternates to be presented at a public meeting
- Consultant currently working on exhibits for future public meeting
- Working on environmental document
Traffic design alternatives is another way of saying we’ve got a lot of opinions weighing in on how this project should look so lets try to cluster those opinions around some common themes, give each some time in the sun, and then see if we can find a consensus direction that emerges from the mix. Not an easy task, but when done right, it works — which is why the staff and the citizens are investing so much time in it.
Below is an exchange between one of the citizen advisors and a City staff engineer that gives you a sense of the discussion — no prediction on how it all turns out, but certainly interesting reading:
I have a few questions for you:
1. I saw URS out surveying and when I got home from work, I noticed that there were right-of-way stakes in place. I noticed that the majority of stakes were on the south side of Summit Road, with only one stake on KSU’s property. Isn’t there any right-of-way on the KSU side of Summit, or hasn’t it been marked yet?
Reply: The R/W was staked along Summit St. at Wind Chimes from my meeting with residents and staff. When we met at the site questions came up as to where the right-of-way was in regards to the existing pavement and Wind Chimes sign. We thought it would be helpful for everyone if the right-of-way was shown to determine where proposed items would be going (i.e. sidewalk and bike lanes). We do not plan on staking the right-of-way on the KSU side (or Loop Road) at this time.
2. The same question applies to Loop Road. The only right-of-way stakes I saw were on the west (Windchimes) side of the street. Isn’t there any right of way on the east side, or was it just not marked yet?
Reply: See answer to #1 above
3. It is difficult to tell distances from the 11×17 aerial with overlays. Are there engineering plans available that detail all of these options? If not, when will they be available?
Reply: There are no engineering plans drawn to date. The purpose of the Citizens Advisory Committee (CAC) Meetings and the preliminary planning is to determine the preferred alternate to solve the congestion and safety problems on Summit Street. Once a “general” preferred alternate is selected than detailed engineering plans will be developed. If there is specific dimensions desired we can provide those. Especially if it helps on selecting one of the three alternates that you received.
4. Is there a key that goes along with the aerial photos? For example, I have heard that bike lanes/sidewalks are still proposed for the south side of Summit. Is this correct? It is not clear from the aerial. Again, getting detailed plans as cited in #3 is critical.
Reply: Bike lanes and sidewalks are proposed for Summit Street for all three alternates. These were considered essential items during the planning and CAC process. The “general” alternate includes the following dimensions:
– Back of Sidewalk is 3 feet from the existing right-of-way (in the existing right-of-way)
– The Sidewalk is proposed to be 6 feet wide
– The tree lawn (area between sidewalk and curb) is proposed as 6 feet wide
– The bike lane would be five foot from the face of curb
– The vehicular lane would be 11′ wide
Therefore the Vehicular travel lane will be +/- 20 feet from the existing right-of-way. Therefore in the area near Loop Road we are proposing to move cars away from the condos.
5. In any of the options, there is a left turn lane proposed from Loop ontoSummit. The currently staked R/W indicates that the R/W extends to the west of the current sidewalk. If this sidewalk is consumed by the turn lane; is there a proposal to additionally put a new sidewalk into this now very small space between the road and the backside of the condos? Or would any new sidewalk be within the current right-of-way? And if the proposed new sidewalk would be put in on WindChimes property… who would pay for the installation and upkeep
Reply: Alternates 1 & 3 do not include a left turn lane from Loop (northbound) to Summit Street (westbound). Alternate 2 would include a left turn lane. The intent of alternate 2 would be to perform the permanent work (sidewalks, curb, street, etc.) within the existing right-of-way. The cost of the construction of any alternate for the project is currently being paid by grants, the City and KSU. Maintenance of any sidewalks (existing or proposed) are the responsibility of the adjacent property owners.
6. When is the next committee meeting scheduled?
Reply: At this time there is not another CAC meeting scheduled before we have a general public meeting. However, I and my staff would be more than willing to meet with Wind Chimes directly on these alternates. Anytime that would be best (evenings and weekends included).
7. Is there an over-arching schedule that shows when the plans/options will be discussed with Council, public meetings held etc.?
Reply: At one time there was. However, the planning process has extended beyond the original schedule. I will give you the next upcoming steps and a rough time frame for when they will occur:
– URS to develop overall alternate figures representing the results of the CAC meetings (4-6 weeks)
– Present the proposed options to City administration (not council) and address follow up comments (2 weeks)
– Present the proposed options to KSU administration and address follow up comments (2 weeks minimum)
– Host a public information meeting (4-6 weeks to prepare and have a meeting)
– Open Comment period for the public meeting (2-3 weeks)
– Prepare a summary of the meeting comments and present to Kent City Council (4 weeks)
The above steps would be in series. Therefore, I see at the earliest 3-4 months before a public meeting and 4-5 months before presenting to Kent City Council.