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The city could receive a $1.8 million grant from Akron Metropolitan Area Transportation Study for improvements but corners of green space could prevent plans from going forward.
"We have AMATS funding and have to decide what we want to do," said City Manager Jane Howington.
In 2009 City Engineer Thomas Sheridan presented plans for improvements to state Route 303 and state Route 91 that included cutting the curbs to the standard 35 degrees to allow large trucks to make right hand turns more easily, but Council would not allow any land taken on the Greens that surround the intersection.
Instead, sidewalks were constructed to be 8 inches to a foot thick to support the large trucks when they rode up on the curbs when making their turns, Sheridan said. A stop bar or thick line was painted for left turn drivers to keep cars out of the intersection and allow room for truck drivers to turn. Also light signals were placed to allow curbs to be cut in the future if approved.
"The radius of curbs are not up to trucks standards they were too small," Sheridan said. "They need to be 35 [degrees], but we weren't allowed to move those curbs toward the Green in 2009. Do you want to proceed or turn this money back in?"
At the Sept. 14 Council workshop, Sheridan and Assistant City Engineer Chris Papp sought guidance from Council about the intersection.
"We want to know the parameters," Papp said. "Do we want to eliminate truck movements over the curb?"
Council members disagreed on the solution to the traffic problem.
"We can go on the Green but do we have the political will to do it," said Council member Alex Kelemen. "We're pretending trucks don't come through the town. They're both state routes and trucks run on them."
"Pedestrians can get hit when semis are turning," said Council member Beth Bigham. "We want this to be a safe walking city. It is taking a little more green space but that is acceptable."
Council President Hal DeSausure said no matter what the city does with the radiuses, the ability of trucks to make the turns depends on where cars stop in the intersection.
"If they don't stop far back enough the trucks can't make the turn unless they cut the corner," DeSaussure said. "We can make this intersection huge, but the width of the road is not enough if cars weren't back enough. I'm reluctant to go this route. I see this intersection is going to be a creeping thing, and we won't solve the problem."
Mayor David Basil agreed with DeSaussure.
"I would not pull the sidewalk back into the Green at all," Basil said.
The plan from 2009 added an additional lane going westbound.
"We'll pile more traffic into this intersection and have the same problem," DeSaussure said. "I don't look at this [changing curb radius] for the solution. I'd like to limit traffic at certain times of the day. Prevent truck traffic from making those turns. That's more of the direct solution."
Bigham wanted to know if there were options to restricting turning and would changes affect pedestrian safety.
Radius enlargement has to be balanced with pedestrian safety and trying to enforce pavements markings is not easy, Papp said. The problem with the intersection is large backups and long delays.
"People get impatient and they try to get through the light or stop in the middle of intersection," Papp said. "This intersection operates at 120 to 130 percent of its capacity. If you provide the storage, it can help with delays. You can make some radius improvements to add safety."
DeSaussure asked if they could limit truck traffic turning at the intersection.
"We lose funding if we don't allow trucks on state routes," Sheridan said.
"I'd hate to spend a lot of money on this intersection without solving this problem," said Council member William Wooldredge.
"You can't control drivers, but if they pull up past the stop bar, there may be technology out there we may be able to use to flush [cars] out [of] the intersection," Papp said.
Sheridan said he would like to look at technology to fix the problem before any infrastructure improvements.
"Traffic going [north] up to the Clocktower backs up," Sheridan said. "Lager and Vine [restaurant] is a designation turn lane and could be used as a storage lane for left turns. I have a list of concerns about this intersection."
Council members did not want to return the AMATS grant of $1.8 million and offered comments on the design and scope of the project, said Communications Manager Jody Roberts.
"We will proceed with our work on the ODOT agreement language, and we will bring the agreement to City Council in May 2017 for their approval per the ODOT and AMATS standards," Roberts said.
The city will evaluate the Council's comments on design issues and return to Council at a future meeting to make design recommendations, Roberts said.
"No decisions were made about what will be included in the project such as curbs, turning angles, etc. at this time," Roberts said. "Right now, we anticipate design in 2018 and the construction would not be until 2022-23. Obviously this tentative timetable could change."