Some area residents and business owners some aspects of the , but city officials often remind them a group of Kent residents and business owners weighed in considerably on the new design.
Members of the Crain Avenue Citizens Advisory Committee met periodically for several years with city engineers and members of the team that designed the new bridge. Their input contributed to the final project design, which we will see finished at the end of this year.
Kent Patch recently posed a few questions to two members of the committee to get their reactions to the project, which is more than 70 percent complete. We talked to former Kent City Council member Rick Hawksley and Tom Clapper, the panel's official representative from Kent State University.
Below are our questions and their answers in this Q&A.
Kent Patch: Do you think traffic has improved for the Fairchild/Crain/Mantua/Water intersections with the new bridge being opened?
Clapper: Yes, the traffic has improved significantly. Importantly, the pedestrian safety and bicycle access has improved a great deal. To me this is a huge accomplishment of this overall project.
Kent Patch: Do you think, as some suggest, the new routing simply moves the congestion problem from North Mantua Street, where there were two very close traffic lights, to North Water Street, where there are now two very close traffic lights?
Clapper: No. The Fairchild Bridge is one component of numerous traffic improvement projects underway in the city of Kent. These projects are and will work together to improve safety, traffic flow and put emphasis on pedestrian and bicycle safety and movement. This is a major step forward for the city. One of the specific goals from the committee was to reduce traffic on Crain (Avenue) and to improve access to the downtown area. I think these goals are being accomplished.
Our thanks to the design team who took the committee input seriously and worked to accomplish an outcome that matched the expressed community vision.
Hawksley: My understanding is that the traffic light at Crain and Water will be removed and replaced with a stop sign. At least that is my recollection of the original design. It may not be the actual intent. The current timing of the lights does not regulate the situation very well and people are cheating through the intersection.
Another problem is that there should be very strong and clear signs encouraging traffic going to the university to remain on the State Route. They are nowhere to be found. Also lacking is a signage board to alert people that there is a train on the tracks, requiring people to do U-turns on the bridge. Both of these would be very beneficial. I remember discussing them, but do not know if they are included in the planning.
Kent Patch: Aesthetically, are you happy with the way the new bridge has turned out so far?
Clapper: Yes, I think the bridge design is pleasing and conveys a sense of being well thought out. I am looking forward to the completion of the final phase of this project. The mini park along S.R. 43, the bike route connections, sidewalks, the pedestrian/bicycle bridge, etc. The broad based committee conveyed a vision that has been translated into a major feature of our community.
Kent Patch: What kind of reactions are you hearing from friends, neighbors and colleagues about the new bridge?
Clapper: Positive comments. I have talked with some committee members and they have expressed how much better the traffic flows, less congestion in the area. Some discussed how they now easily move from the western Fairchild area into downtown Kent. I have heard numerous positive comments from many community members as well. I recall the first proposal to replace just the Crain Avenue Bridge and the resistance that was expressed of once again putting the car ahead of what the community wanted. This has been a very rewarding process and I am very glad that I had a part in this project, this is a top quality project. It was a great committee to serve on. The members were fantastic and all contributed and brought forward so many great ideas. The committee focus was on removing barriers to the pedestrian and bicycle rider. To improve safety, reduce congestion. And, most important from my view, the community via the committee determined how the transportation system would function and set the priorities.
Hawksley: Glad it is open.
Kent Patch: What is your favorite aspect of the new bridge?
Clapper: The area looks so much better. I believe it reflects well on what Kent is. This is a community that puts people first, that seeks broad input and is not afraid to stand up for new approaches and ideas. This is a great example of a comprehensive approach to transportation, balancing the needs of pedestrians, bicycles and vehicles. This project has been thoroughly discussed and executed with great skill by the design firm, city, the (Portage) County Engineer and ODOT. It also appears that the contractor on the job was excellent. The bridge project shows our community values and is another example of Kent as an innovate community putting people first. There is more to the project yet to be completed, the pedestrian/bicycle bridge, the finished sidewalks (and) trail connection will soon be complete. I hope this project continually reminds us of the power of involving the community in these type of projects up front and openly. Establishing the community goals and vision on any major project first and foremost sets the tone for long-term success.
Hawksley: Southern sidewalk visibility to (the) river.
Kent Patch: What aspect of the new bridge do you dislike the most or are unhappy with?
Clapper: My only disappointment in this project was that the utility lines remain overhead. I would have liked to see all the overhead lines buried. However, I do understand this was a cost issue.
Hawksley: Placement of (the) railroad stantion in the middle of the sidwalk on the south side, east end of the bridge. This will make it impossible to use a truck plow to plow (the) sidewalk. Pedestrians will continue to be treated as second class citizens. I pushed to have ice melting installed in the sidewalks, to no avail. We did, surprisingly, get stainless steel guardrails along the railroad tracks!
Failure to connect the Lake Street sidewalk to the new pedestrian bridge.
Failure to connect Water Street to the trailhead. The city will need to use appropriation powers to create a second crossing, as we will be doing it anyway.
Lack of thinking about placement of signs, utility poles and other detritus in the center of sidewalks. This is rude and irresponsible, lack of good design, engineering and discussion with pedestrians. Engineers would never put an obstruction in the middle of a traffic lane. People who do not see well, are walking and talking or otherwise distracted, will get injured from these obstructions.