Grinding it Out: Kent State endures delay of Summit renovations

Construction+takes+place+on+Summit+Street+Tuesday%2C+Aug.+29%2C+2017.%C2%A0

Construction takes place on Summit Street Tuesday, Aug. 29, 2017. 

Colin Baker

Kent State students and nearby residents have endured months of noise, one-lane eastbound traffic, dangerous walking conditions and other difficult routes to get to work and class, but at least they knew the problems would end this year.

They were wrong.

Phase 2 of the the project was originally to be completed by December 2017, but is now not expected to be done until early 2018, according to the Kent State website.

Jon Giaquinto, senior engineer with the Kent city engineering division and front-line manager of the Summit project, said some unforeseen factors caused the delay.

“Underground utility conflicts between existing, undocumented facilities and new utilities installed by the contractor,” Giaquinto said. “This required additional time and work needed to change the elevations and locations of new utility installation.”

The Kent State website also says the completion date may change “due to weather, utilities, and other factors.”

As of Oct. 23, sections of Summit St. near Satterfield Hall and front campus have yet to be paved, and the section of road near the Cohn Jewish Student Center is just now having road lines painted. Sidewalks on the road are still to be completed, and the demolished hill in front of the Jewish Center has not yet been replanted with grass.

The realignment of W. Campus Center Drive to intersect with Summit Street near the Student Green to eliminate two traffic lights and the installation of a roundabout at the intersection of Campus Center and Summit are also still in progress.

Residents living in apartments and fraternities on Summit Street were disappointed upon hearing the project has been delayed.

A member of the Alpha Sigma Phi fraternity and resident of its unofficial house on Summit Street, Joe Schuster, a sophomore education, health and human services major, complained about the noise and dangers during the project.

“The progress of the project has been very slow,” Schuster said. “The workers would block the driveway and some (of my roommates) would be late to class or work. This project has been such a pain for so long now, and I hate that it is being pushed back.”

Madison Wyckof, a junior speech pathology and audiology major who lives at the Eagles Landing apartment complex on Morris Road, said the project has affected her commute. She was unhappy upon hearing the project has been delayed until 2018.

“That’s really annoying, because now it’s going to take even longer for everything,” Wyckof said. “It definitely takes a lot longer to get to classes; you kind of have to go out of your way to turn left here.”

Schuster described some of the issues the project has given him and his roommates.

“They start jackhammering at 7 in the morning,” Schuster said. “And me and my roommates have lost a lot of sleep over it. The project has affected my commute to school because, for at least two to three weeks, there were no sidewalks, so I had to walk in the street.”

However, Giaquinto said the early time for work is permitted by city ordinance.

“The construction contract allows the contractor to begin work at 7 a.m.,” Giaquinto said. “This follows City Code 905.21, which prohibits noise between 10 p.m. and 7 a.m. unless permission is granted by the city or work is necessary because of an emergency.”

Schuster said the resulting chaos of the construction zone left him feeling nervous.

“The workers wouldn’t stop for myself or anyone else that would have to walk in the street. … They’d yell at us for being in the way, but there was nowhere to walk,” Schuster said.

Schuster said his roommates have had similar difficult experiences, and all were upset upon hearing the project has been delayed until 2018.

Aside from local residents, the Cohn Jewish Student Center has had some problems with the construction.

The executive director of the Jewish Center, Adam Hirsh, said the project gave the Center some issues at first.

“It’s been difficult for people to find the building because we found that most GPS apps … never noted that the construction was going on,” Hirsh said. “For any visitors … they would hit Summit Street and the road would be closed, so we would have to get on the phone with them and redirect them back to the center.”

Hirsh said despite these difficulties, the center’s day-to-day operations have not been affected too much. Even though the progress has been slow, he hopes the project will be done well.

On the other hand, Parking Services has had to make some major changes in the zone of the project.

The manager of Kent State Parking Services, Larry Emilng, said they have had to construct new spaces south of the Integrated Science Building to make up for lost parking lots.

“We knew we would be losing space there as a result of the Summit Street construction — we would be losing about 100 spaces,” Emling said. “We’re rebuilding a lot of what’s left of the lot, and that number is still fluctuating. … We added about 140 spaces to account for it.”

But for the Portage Area Regional Transportation Authority (PARTA) buses, which service Kent State, the construction has not affected their operations much.

The manager of planning and development for PARTA, Clayton Popik, said PARTA has adjusted well to the project.

“We really haven’t stopped moving at all,” Popik said. “All we did was redesign the routes around the one-way eastbound only. … We did unfortunately lose service to Hilltop Drive, but these changes have been so long-term that there’s probably a whole class of students that did not know any other routes existed.”

Giaquinto said the scope of the project was large enough to require a lot of time to finish, even before a delay was called.

“There were several goals. … Improving safety was number one; there were a lot of crashes in this corridor, whether vehicular or pedestrian,” Giaquinto said. “We were trying to make this corridor safer for pedestrians and cyclists with new bike lanes.”

The Kent city engineer overseeing the Summit project, James Bowling, cited the 2013-15 Akron Metropolitan Area Transportation Study as an example of the danger the Summit and S. Lincoln intersection posed to pedestrians.

“There are about 90 miles of road in the city of Kent,” Bowling said. “And 23 percent of all pedestrian accidents occurred in that one mile stretch of road.”

The $14.2 million second phase of the project included reducing the slope of the hill near the intersection of Summit and S. Lincoln Streets, bulldozing the hill in front of the Cohn Jewish Student Center, new traffic signals at the Summit and S. Lincoln intersection, new pedestrian walkways and bike lanes along the length of Summit Street, re-routing Campus Center Drive and its parking lots and the installation of a roundabout near the Student Green.

Colin Baker is the architecture/construction reporter for the Kent Stater. Contact him at [email protected]