On the road, the quickest way from point A to point B isn’t always a straight line, especially if a left turn is needed.
“The left turn is the bane of the traffic engineer’s existence,” sighed Stark County Engineer Keith Bennett, while discussing “Moving Stark Forward 2050,” a new 146-page document that outlines planned major transportation improvements in Stark County through the year 2050.
The very phrase “hang a Louie at the light” is enough to make some of them cringe. The reasons are simple: Turning left usually means a vehicle must pass through lanes of oncoming traffic, so it’s less safe than a right turn; and it can create a line of backed-up vehicles behind the left-turner.
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It’s little surprise future road projects in suburban and rural areas of the county — some still years away from the drawing board — will include a heavy dose of designs that will reduce left turns.
The Stark County Area Transportation Study published a draft of the 2050 report last month. A final version is likely to be approved in May. By law, the agency must periodically produce such a planning document.
Not only is it a repository of proposals in locales around the county, such a plan is needed to secure federal funding, which is needed for the kinds of projects described within it.
The original SCATS transportation plan was adopted in 1971 with a target end date of 1985. The latest draft is the ninth update since, and also the first time the horizon was extended to 2050. It’s available online, or for download, at the Stark County Regional Planning Commission website at: starkcountyohio.gov/regional-planning.
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“We had already went out to 2040 twice … so we thought it was time,” explained Jeff Dotson, technical director for SCATS.
The report includes three components: highways, transit and bicycle/pedestrian facilities. Projects are divided into four time periods, based on proposed completion dates of 2021 through 2025, or 2026 through 2030, as well as from 2031 through 2040 or 2041 through 2050.
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The total estimated cost of all the work is more than $1.3 billion, though about $500 million of that is expected to be spent simply to preserve existing local, state and federal routes.
“One of the bigger new pieces is trying to figure out where technology is taking us,” Dotson said.
How soon will electric vehicles replace those powered by combustion engines? Are self-driving vehicles going to become the norm? Maybe, some form of mass transit will take hold?
More roundabouts coming to Stark County
Although only seven planned roundabouts are specifically mentioned in the plan, officials said many more are likely. Intersections tabbed for improvement all over the county could wind up being roundabouts, when the time comes to study solutions for each in depth.
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For now, here are the seven:
- Cherry Road/Earl Road/Wooster Street/17th Street on Massillon’s west side, for $4 million by 2030.
- Hess Boulevard and Tremont Avenue in southeast Massillon, for $5 million by 2030.
- Wales Road and Hills & Dales Road NE in Massillon, for $400,000 by 2030.
- The O’Jays Parkway/Rowland Avenue/Seventh Street in northeast Canton, for $5 million by 2035
- Columbus Road and Reeder Avenue at Besson Street NE in Lexington Township, for $1 million by 2040.
- Pittsburg Avenue and Applegrove Street NW in North Canton, for $5 million by 2040.
- Tremont and Main Avenue in southwest Massillon, for $3 million by 2040.
Roundabouts have become vogue in the area in recent years because studies have shown they’re often the safest intersection option. Replacing traffic signals with roundabouts eliminates the possibility of high-speed T-bone crashes, which can cause serious injuries or death.
Canton City Engineer Dan Moeglin said roundabouts will likely find a place in at least some portions of the the city’s Tuscarawas Street W gateway corridor plan. The three-phase $43.5 million project, through 2035, is similar to what the city has accomplished on 12th Street in recent years.
The addition of roundabouts, Moeglin said, may be effective on a stretch of Tuscarawas Street, between Interstate 77 and Broad Avenue. The section is riddled with north-south streets that are offset — streets north of Tuscarawas don’t line up with the pieces south of Tuscarawas.
“Even farther west, heading to Whipple, roundabouts have been discussed,” Moeglin said.
Perhaps even more so in the city, considerations also must be made to enhance economic development, as well as accommodating pedestrians, for example. And with the Tuscarawas Street corridor, plans will include streetscaping, so that the artery also is visually appealing.
“Traffic patterns in the city have changed a lot since the 1940s and 1950s,” Moeglin said.
Corridor work in other sections of the city, and in neighborhoods, will sometimes be of the “diet” variety. If the roadway is deemed too wide for future needs, it can be carved down by eliminating a lane — which captures more space for new sidewalks or tree lawns.
Access management and widening
Bennett, the county engineer, said access management is coming to the Belden Village area. The idea is to reduce the number of business entrances and exits, as well as left turns, to create safer and more efficient traffic flow.
Former Stark County Engineer Mike Rehfus, who died in 2009, introduced the conversation. Bennett picked up the effort about six years ago, completed a two-year legally required process of public hearings and ultimately the county adopted an access plan. It includes detailed regulations and recommendations on everything from main thoroughfares to residential driveways.
This year, he said, improvements will be made on a stretch of Portage Street NW, near The Strip, from Frank to Whipple avenues NW.
Some business entrances and exits will be closed and replaced by signaled interior drives, and the far right eastbound lane on Portage will funnel traffic to I-77, rather than require a turn on to Strip Avenue NW.
The 2050 plan also includes a host of widening projects, such as: Applegrove Street NW to five lanes, from Frank to Whipple avenues for $13 million by 2030; Edison Street NW to four lanes, from Cleveland Avenue to state Route 43 for $5 million by 2030; Harmont Avenue NE to four lanes from state Route 153 to U.S. Route 62 for $2.8 million by 2040; and Jackson Avenue NW, from 12th Street to Perry Drive for $2 million by 2045.
SCATS also recommended extending Mahoning Avenue north from Alliance, across the Mahoning River to connect to Armour Street NE in Lexington Township. The $3.9 million project would be complete by 2045.
The improvement, the report noted, would reduce truck traffic and improve access to the Route 62 extension at Route 225, as well as tie into proposed industrial development in Lexington.
Portions of the document also outline rapid transit corridors and projects by the Stark Area Regional Transit Authority bus services, as well as recreational trail proposals by Stark Parks.
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On Twitter: @tbotosREP