By George W. Davis
Special to the Beacon Journal
GREEN: City residents and business owners have until Feb. 24 to offer opinions on three proposals to turn the northern leg of Massillon Road into a “signature corridor.”
About 30 property owners and residents met Thursday night with city planners and transportation and streetscape professionals to learn more about the three proposals from Burgess & Niple architects and transportation experts of Columbus and Tony Slanec, director of planning and urban development with OHM of Gahanna.
To improve safety and traffic flow, officials say Massillon Road, between Raber Road and state Route 619 (East Turkeyfoot Lake Road), needs to be widened from two to four lanes and in some cases five lanes.
Cost of the project, stretching from Interstate 77 at Massillon Road to just north of state Route 619, is expected to cost anywhere from $9.5 million to $10.5 million, said Paul Pickett, city engineer.
Participants were able to wander among tables set up detailing each proposal. Residents were invited to ask questions and express opinions about the ideas.
Afterward, they were asked to fill out a two-page questionnaire to indicate which alternative they favor and offer suggestions to improve the plan.
In a similar meeting last summer more than 100 suggestions were offered up, said Brian Moore, transportation project manager for Burgess & Niple.
The alternatives and questionnaires are to be posted on the city’s website within a week or so for those residents unable to attend last week’s meeting. The plan is to submit all comments and suggestions by Feb. 24 when they will be reviewed to see if they are worth pursuing in the final planning.
Steve Thieken, an owner and director of transportation system design and planning for Burgess & Niple, said all three alternatives include flattening hills in the area to provide better sight distance.
The corridor’s northern leg runs north from Raber Road to just north of state Route 619, said Pickett.
The first alternative would have minimal right-of-way impacts at intersections with fewer left-turn locations. Traffic signals would control traffic at Raber, East Turkeyfoot Lake and Stein roads. Access roads could be created for future development. A disadvantage to this plan is that access roads would be costly and difficult to build.
The second proposal would put roundabouts at each of the three intersections instead of traffic signals and would accommodate a traffic capacity from 19,000 vehicles per day now to the 28,000 vehicles projected in 2033.
Nearly all left turns would be eliminated, forcing motorists to use the roundabouts to make right turns, while slowing traffic would offer a greener corridor.
The disadvantage of this plan, officials said, would be right-of-way impacts at intersections.
The third alternative is a hybrid of one and two with roundabouts at Stein and Route 619 and a traffic signal at Raber Road. The need for access roads would be nearly eliminated along with left turns north of Stein.
Disadvantages include right-of-way impacts at intersections and a lack of convenience making left turns out of the Speedway gas station at the Interstate 77/Massillon Road ramps.
Fred Carr, of Carr Investments, questioned the impact on neighborhoods from roundabouts and lowering the hills. He said there is an underground waterway under the Massillon Road/Route 619 intersection that could adversely affect the project if the hill is flattened.
Tony Ziehler, of Golden Wood Way, questioned the possibility of making the roundabouts two lane or three lane affairs or expanding them to that size in the future if needed.
He was told that was a possibility because it has been done elsewhere.
Ward 3 Councilman Ken Knodel urged the city to make sure everyone is aware of the proposals and that their voices are heard before the project progresses.
City Planning Director Wayne Wiethe said planning and design likely would be done this year and next, with right-of-way acquisition running into 2017. He suggested construction could begin in late 2017 or 2018 and be completed in 2018 or 2019.
As for cost, he said grants are being sought to hopefully cover 80 percent of the cost.
He said the city already has secured $1.6 million for right-of-way from the Akron Metropolitan Area Transportation Study’s Surface Transportation Program and is hoping for $3.5 million more from AMATS for construction. He said the city is applying for highway safety program funds from the Ohio Department of Transportation and will continue to seek other funding sources.
George Davis can be reached via email at email@example.com.