Summit Street construction causes delays

Ian Flickinger

The first phase of the Summit Street Improvement Project began March 7, creating one-way, one-lane eastbound traffic between Fraternity Circle and Loop Road on East Summit Street.

The project, which started with utility work last fall, is scheduled to be completed over a two-year period— wrapping up by spring of 2018.

According to the project’s FAQ sheet, the timeline for the project’s completion is contingent on permissible weather and other outside factors. In total, the project is expected to cost $17.5 million, “with 80 percent coming from federal and state funds. The remaining 20 percent is being shared equally by Kent State and the City of Kent.”

Kent State University President Beverly Warren said that while she understands that the construction is not ideal, the ends justify the means.

“Well, it is certainly changing the face of Kent State right now,” Warren said. “We knew it was going to be three years of pain for a really great transformation.”

While the construction will add a new layout to a cluttered stretch of roads , the ultimate goal of the project is create a safe and efficient commute to campus.

“The transformation is, I think, number one a safety issue because Summit Street is the most dangerous street in all of Portage County,” Warren said. “We certainly know students and black squirrels take their lives at risk any time crossing that street.”

The Akron Metropolitan Area Transportation Study(AMATS) found that Summit Street is the most congested non-freeway in all of Summit and Portage County, and between 2010-2012, 23 percent of all pedestrian accidents in the city of Kent occurred in the project’s radius.

In addition to improving to the overall safety of the area, the project aims at clearing up the backed-up traffic found at rush hour around Kent State University and create a more visually appealing campus.

According to the project’s website, the final product will create roundabouts near the entrance to Risman Plaza and the Kent Student Center and Ted Boyd Drive, as well as both bike lanes throughout the length of the project and pedestrian walkways and crosswalks in areas that receive the most congestion.

New lighting, bus stops and signal lights will all be installed along the one-mile stretch, too.

Warren said that she receives complaints from students about the traffic daily, but that while the project affects students on campus, it’s actually being completed by the City of Kent— not the university itself.

“The potential two years now down the road is a really transformational look in terms of safety and just a great city improvement that helps our campus. We just have to be patient in the process,” she said. “We don’t run that project; we have to try and manage that project. We’re doing all that we can to manage a temporary pain, it’s not a permanent pain, but it’s certainly one that gives student concern.”


The main concern for students, outside of a delayed ride to campus, is the impact the project has on campus parking options. Larry Emling, the manager of Parking Services, says that while the construction gives the appearance of blocking off available parking spaces, there’s actually a minimal impact on parking.

“Getting to the lots may take a little bit longer because of one-way traffic and how you have to be rerouted and how you approach the campus,” Emling said. “But this spring— the six to eight weeks — all the lots will be accessible and we won’t be losing any parking spaces at this time.”

Emling said the project will be completed in two phases. Phase one is underway now until November, running from Fraternity Circle to Whitehall Boulevard. Phase two construction will move to the other end of Summit Street near the Schwartz Center and surrounding area, and extend to Fraternity Circle.

He said that parking is always a topic of discussion for students, but that there are currently plenty of parking options available now, and there will continue to be in the future.

“There are always spaces available out there. We’re not at a point where we’re completely sold out and there’s nothing available,” Emling said. “That’s not the case. We just don’t have what they wanted available. That’s what it comes down to.”

Things will change in the summer of 2017 when Parking Services expects to lose an estimated 200 spaces, primarily in the lot across the street from the Student Center (what is now open to C, R-12 and R-5 pass holders), according to Emling.

“We’re discussing right now to see if and where those spots can be made up and relocated around the campus,” he said. “Obviously losing a couple hundred commuter spaces is significant.”

Because the department is an auxiliary operation, Parking Services manages its own finances and operates its own budget. Emling said that they’ve known about the Summit Street Improvement Project for a few years, and have planned their finances accordingly.

“We’ve been deferring some maintenance on these lots right along the Summitt Street corridor knowing we would get to them in time as this project got closer and that’s what we’re doing,” Emling said. “We watch the money pretty closely, we spend it like it’s our own—we’re spending student and staff money that has been paid into parking permit fees— so we’re diligent with how we choose to spend that.”

Emling said that the department is looking into creating additional surface lots on campus.  Each surface lot space costs an estimated $5,000 per space, so the 200 lost would cost about $1 million to replace.


In preparation for the project, the front lot of the Student Recreation and Wellness Center was closed off for construction— losing spaces lot in the process— but Emling said that Parking Services added an 50 spaces near the center last summer, which brought the net loss to around five spots.

Emling said that because this project was completed using money from the Ohio Department of Transportation, the front lot will be replaced, with an end of result of an additional 50-60 spots being created in the end.

“It looks worse than it is. Especially this time of year — the ‘Rec’ is so busy this time of year—but it’s really no different than it’s been the last ten years,” Emling said. “The demand is going to exceed what we have available and you’re going to end up in the overflow slots across the street.”