Summit Street construction to extend into summer

Road+closed+signs+sit+in+snow+on+the+old+West+Campus+Center+drive+Monday+Jan.+15%2C+2018.+The+change+of+West+Campus+Center+is+part+of+the+current+Summit+Street+project.

Road closed signs sit in snow on the old West Campus Center drive Monday Jan. 15, 2018. The change of West Campus Center is part of the current Summit Street project.

Cameron Gorman

The Summit Street Improvement Project, first projected to be completed by December 2017, will now finish during the summer of 2018.

“The bulk of the work will be done sooner, but there are a lot of small things that we’ll need the contractor out there to clean up, fix, finalize, a lot of smaller details,” said Jim Bowling, Kent’s deputy service director and superintendent of engineering. “So while the bulk of the work will be done sooner, we don’t expect everything complete and finished until summer.”

Kent launched the project, which was first discussed in 2002, with the goal of lessening congestion along Summit Street.

“The basic premise of the project is safety for vehicles, pedestrians, bicyclists,” Bowling said. “Congestion, to solve congestion, we had a lot of congestion on Summit Street with vehicles, and then access management.”

Due to factors such as wanting to break up the schedule of construction, a joint decision to push back the project’s end date was struck between the city, university, the Ohio Department of Transportation and the contractor, Kenmore Construction.

“All of us got together, and felt along the way that it would be better for our people that we’re serving that if we changed how we were going to build it to this method versus how it was originally done, which causes it to go a little bit longer, but it’d end up making it easier on traffic, because we’re only working in areas for shorter periods of time,” Bowling said. “And we learned that from the first year of construction.”

The Office of the University Architect has been present “throughout this entire project,” according to Bowling.

“We’re partners, they are the lead on the project,” said Brian Pickering, a project manager and landscape architect at Kent State. ”We are partners with the city, and any change to project schedule is discussed amongst the team and all the considerations are taken into account before a decision is made, so the city’s not making a decision that would … adversely affect the university without the university being at the table and understanding the implications of the project to the schedule, anything of that sort.”

Other factors that contributed into the pushback included wanting to wait for students to move off campus during construction and other complications in the process, such as other construction in the area — according to Bowling, specifically that of Williams Hall.

“I think what needs to be understood is there was a lot of work that had to happen, there was a lot of things that came up during the construction that complicated things,” Pickering said. “I think there were unknowns, things that happened along the way that you can’t just avoid doing.”

Pickering added that the university understands the setback.

“We understand a process, and by being a partner with the city, we have been much better educated as to why things may need to take longer to happen,” Pickering said.

Moving forward, updates and announcements regarding the project will continue to be updated on the project’s web page, according to Carla Wyckoff, the director of communications and special projects for the Division of Finance and Administration at Kent State.

“The website is the best place to go because if there’s something, that’s the first place we put it before we start putting it out elsewhere,” Wyckoff said.

The most recent update, posted Dec. 13, announced road work on Summit Street would stop during the winter.

“During the winter months there’s going to be two way traffic maintained in the construction area, and then once the weather breaks, the contractors will come back in, finish the job … once students, faculty, everybody’s back, then we’ll use the usual communication channels that we do to send that message out again and let people know,” Wyckoff said.

Though it appears the project may take longer to complete than originally anticipated, those involved say there are already positive signs from what has been finished, specifically the creation of roundabouts.

“You’re not stopping. So, you allow for a better flow of traffic, you allow for people to just flow through the corridor rather than completely stopping traffic, backing it up,” Pickering said. “So, yes, I 100 percent believe the studies have shown, and I think we will see a lot better flow of traffic along Summit Street.”

When finished, the effort will be nearly 16 years in the making.

“Yes, it will be much anticipated,” Pickering said, “but already I think we’re seeing the benefits of the improvement.”

Cameron Gorman is an assigning editor. Contact her at [email protected]