Kent to fix Lincoln-Summit traffic

Hannah Coleman

Between potholes, closed roads and traffic cones, Kent State students and surrounding community members have found it impossible to ignore the construction taking place on Summit Street.

The current road work is a result of the Summit Street Improvement Project, a three-year construction project that aims to make significant improvements along the roadway.

Per the 2013-15 Akron Metropolitan Area Transportation Study (AMATS) traffic study, the intersection of Lincoln and Summit is the most dangerous in the city of Kent. The next most dangerous is the E. Main Street and Lincoln Street intersection. All intersections on the list are considered “high-crash intersections.”

A high-crash intersection earns the designation by racking up extensive accidents that “occur within a radius of 250 feet from the center of an intersection and involve at least two vehicles.”

AMATS uses a specific formula to calculate their results, which puts Lincoln and Summit at the top of the list for the Kent area.

The Kent Police Department has 49 accident reports on record at the intersection from January 2013 to February 2017. These accidents range from fender benders to side collisions to three-car accidents.

A reason for construction

Pre-construction, the intersection operates on two lanes on both roads with no left-turn lanes and an outdated traffic system, said Jim Bowling, superintendent of engineering and deputy service director.

Summit Street is traveled by about 20,000 cars a day which is slightly more than what Route 261, a four-lane highway, experiences, bowling said. The traffic light on Summit Street is the oldest in the city and is significantly below standards for what it should be at a four-way intersection.

“The codes require that you have two faces for each major movement,” said Bowling. “So, we have half the number of signal indications out there.”

The intersection becomes a danger to pedestrians and drivers when drivers attempt to do things they are not permitted to do, Bowling said.

Before, left-hand turns were prohibited onto Lincoln Street and neither street provided a left-turn lane. This does not stop drivers from attempting to make left turns, though.

The steepness of the hill makes for limited visibility and waiting to turn left in a highly-trafficked area is what leads to congestion in the area, he said.

“Right now, we prohibit left-turn movements. But if you really want to turn left, people do it. We are making it so it will be easier for people to do and get out of the way of moving traffic,” Bowling said. “We are adding left-turn lanes on all four legs, north and south on Lincoln and east and west on Summit. All the turn-lane improvements are meant to improve congestion.”

Jonathan Morales, a junior exercise science major, lives in Eagle’s Landing apartments and has had to completely readjust his driving routes to get around campus.

“The construction causes a lot of backed-up traffic on the other roads. There’s also no warnings about things like metal plates in the street,” Morales said. “They need to let people know when and where roads are going to be closed so I can plan where I can drive.”

Causing headaches

The construction, which began in March, has limited Summit Street to one-way, eastbound traffic. Drivers have been advised to avoid the area.

Katharine Garrett, a junior art history major, and Tylor Brickman, a junior fashion merchandising major, live in the area and have had increased difficulties with traveling since construction began.

“At night, there’s very little lighting, and with so much of the intersection closed off, it seems like a car crash waiting to happen,” Garrett said. “I’m hoping that some lighting gets installed because earlier in the semester it was dark out by the time I walked back from class and I would have felt safer if there were lights letting cars see me.”

Brickman lives in 345 Flats and has experienced difficulty traveling on foot, on top of having the road closed.

“I went to walk to class and the sidewalk I use every day was closed. I had to figure out a way to go completely around,” Brickman said. “It was really annoying and I was almost late for class.”

The PARTA buses, which service the Portage County Area and Kent State students, operate on eastbound-only routes as a result of Phase I of the project, which limited Summit Street to one-lane, one-way traffic from Fraternity Circle to Loop Road.

PARTA kept the busses on the same routes they implemented last year to reduce the confusion of switching routes in the middle of a semester, which did happen during Phase I.

Although routes were kept the same to make things easier for drivers and riders, the experience thus far has been less than enjoyable for PARTA bus driver Hali Adkins.

“Nobody really knows what’s going on. People will try and turn (westbound) without knowing it is only one-way,” Adkins said. “And now that there’s only one lane, traffic is very backed up. You can sit through the light two or three times before you can even make a left.”

Construction is only one of Adkins’ worries. She’s also had to deal with people driving the wrong way down the hill, misplaced construction cones and metal plates on the ground. She has concerns about the area being poorly lit, and with uninformed drivers and pedestrians driving and crossing in areas that are dangerous.

“It’s a bumpy ride,” Adkins said. “And they’ve done all they can to warn people, but if someone is in a hurry, they’re not looking.”

About the project

The Summit Street Improvement Project has been in the works for about 10 years. Bowling said he started to notice the intersection was an issue around 2002. However, funding for the project wasn’t approved until 2009.

Once funding was approved, the design and planning process began with help from the community.

“There was a Kent State University Area Citizens Advisory Committee put together. They looked at three different areas and one of them was Summit Street and how to fix it and it included this intersection,” Bowling said. “That’s when the first original concepts started to be put together all along Summit Street.”

Funding for the project comes from six different local and state sources.

According to the City of Kent’s engineering division website, the project has a budget of $17,469,000. The budget can be broken down by department, with $6.5 million coming from AMATS, $6.4 million from ODOT, $1.6 million from Kent State and $900,000 from OPWC (Ohio Public Works Commission).

“What’s been nice with the university is that they recognize there’s a very strong purpose that the road serves for the campus, so they want it to be more than just a four-lane highway with four-foot sidewalks up against it,” Bowling said. “It has to meet the needs of a university.”

Improving Summit Street

Phase II of the project is set to be completed by December.

These changes include improved sidewalks, bike paths and crosswalks. The biggest change was the addition of the roundabout in front of the Student Recreation and Wellness Center.

Phase II will include an additional roundabout in front of Risman Plaza and the shifting of numerous roads from Fraternity Circle to Lincoln Street.

In the Summit and Lincoln Street intersection, students and residents will see improved crosswalks, signals and a shortened hill. To improve safety, a new traffic signal system will be put in to reduce congestion and meet city standards. The traffic light, along with the new audio-equipped crosswalk signals, will be traffic responsive.

Students and residents can expect to see Summit Street by Lincoln Street open up to two-way traffic again by the end of May. However, it is being completed in stages, so there are more road closures to come.

Information and updates regarding the Summit Street Improvement Project can be found at

Hannah Coleman is the parking and transportation reporter, contact her at [email protected]