Two-year Summit Street Improvement Project will affect driving conditions, parking lots

Chelsea Graff

The two-year Summit Street Improvement Project will improve traffic and safety conditions by adding turn lanes, medians and sidewalks to the roadway, but it will also cause several disruptions for drivers and pedestrians throughout the duration of construction.

The project, which will cause parts of Summit Street to become one-way for a majority of the two-year timeframe, will cost about $15 million, with the Ohio Department of Transportation paying for 80 percent of and the city of Kent and Kent State splitting the remaining 20 percent.

“The overall project is meant to relieve traffic congestion (and) improve vehicular and pedestrian safety to the corridor,” said James Bowling, superintendent of engineering and deputy service director for the city.

Project contractor Kim Moore Construction Company will begin construction in early fall, Bowling said.

The entire project is expected to be finished sometime in late 2017. However, the completion date could be pushed back due to weather, according to a university website.

Driving on Summit Street

The project, which will be broken up into phases, will focus on the one-mile stretch of Summit Street between Loop Road and Lincoln Street.

Two roundabouts will be added: one at the entrance to Risman Plaza and the Kent Student Center parking lot, which will eliminate one intersection at Risman Plaza, and one at Ted Boyd Drive that will replace the existing intersection.

Michael Bruder, executive director of facilities planning and design, said phase one will take place between Fraternity Circle and Loop Road, and phase two will take place between Fraternity Circle and Lincoln Street.

During each phase, traffic will be restricted to a one-way eastbound lane in the construction zone.

Bruder said State Route 261 is the detour. From 261, drivers will turn right on South Water Street, which is State Route 43, then turn right onto East Summit Street. From there, drivers can turn left onto South Lincoln Street, which is the endpoint for the construction.

“We are encouraging people to carpool, ride their bikes and take the buses,” Bruder said.

Turn lanes will be added at the Lincoln Street, Morris Road and Loop Road intersections, according to a Kent State website about the project. A left turn lane will also be added from Summit Street to Terrace Drive.


Because Campus Center Drive is being shifted to align with the Student Green, parking spots in the Campus Center lots will be lost.

Katherine Manning, director of planning for PARTA, said they don’t know how many spots will be lost from that lot, but previous reports have said it could cut hundreds of spots.

“At that point, we’re going to be losing spaces in that commuter lot,” said Parking Services Manager Larry Emling in an April 2014 interview. “We’ll probably lose a couple hundred spaces. And that could unfortunately, realistically, be a permanent loss.”

In addition, the construction company will be using the front parking lot of the Recreation and Wellness Center as a staging area for offices, causing the lot to be closed for the duration of the project.

Emling said about 50 parking spots were added behind the Student Recreation and Wellness Center to make up for the loss in the front lot. He said another parking lot was also added where the Ceramics Studio was, which will add about 30 parking spots.

“For this year, it will be pretty much an even exchange,” Manning said, “but when everything is built, those 50 spaces will go back, in so in a couple years there will actually be a net gain of about 50 spaces (at the Rec).”

Portage Area Regional Transportation Authority

When Summit Street becomes one-way, PARTA is planning to minimize its number of bus routes.

“We are going to go down to an abbreviated schedule, but we don’t have that fully approved from Kent State yet,” said Katherine Manning, director of planning for PARTA.

Manning said they are planning to have two or three bus routes compared to the four main ones they have now.

However, the service cut will not start until Summit Street becomes one-way late this year or early next year, so service in the fall will not be affected.

“We are planning to run our service as usual starting fall semester,” Manning said. “There won’t be any detours starting the fall semester in August.”

In addition, new bus stops with shelters and lighting will be added during the project.

Pedestrian safety

According to the Akron Metropolitan Area Transportation Study, Summit Street is the most dangerous corridor for pedestrians in the city of Kent and the most congested stretch of road in Portage and Summit counties.

“In the last three years, 23 percent of all pedestrian accidents citywide were in this one-mile stretch of road,” Bowling said.

Three pedestrian crossings will be added at areas with a lot of pedestrian traffic, including the Schwartz Center, the Student Green and the Presbyterian Church.

The project will add a protected pedestrian actuated crossing system for the Risman Plaza roundabout.

Sidewalks will be added where there currently are not any, so there will be sidewalks along both sides of the one-mile stretch of Summit once the project is complete.

In addition, new lighting will be added to the street and sidewalk, and bike lanes will be added throughout the length of the project.


Summit Street will become a boulevard from Morris Road to East Campus Center Drive to improve the flow of traffic and make pedestrian crossings safer, according to a university website.

This means an 18-foot-wide median with trees and grass will be added to the middle of Summit Street, Bowling said.

“We’re going to make Summit Street a nice boulevard,” Kent Mayor Jerry Fiala said. “It’s going to be pedestrian-friendly, bicycle-friendly and also vehicle-friendly.”

Emily Mills contributed reporting.

Contact Chelsea Graff at [email protected].