Heavy traffic, car accidents concern city and campus

Rachel Sluss

With record-breaking enrollment figures and a revitalized downtown, the streets of Kent are filling up. During busy hours of the day, traffic is often backed up and hectic while pedestrians attempt to cross the streets safely, sometimes without crosswalks.

City and university officials are partners in addressing some of Kent’s traffic issues, with engineers and architects planning new designs to completely reconstruct Summit Street.

The project’s estimated budget is $14.2 million. Both Kent State and the city have gone after a number of funding opportunities together and are splitting the budget evenly. The Ohio Department of Transportation (ODOT) is providing $4.2 million while the Akron Metropolitan Area Transportation Study (AMATS) is providing $6 million.

City Senior Engineer Jon Gianquinto says the city and university have yet to secure additional funding for the project.

Brian Pickering, project manager and landscape architect, says the university’s main focus areas involving Summit Street are relieving congestion, addressing safety and creating a better corridor for vehicles, pedestrians and bicyclists.

“Kent State borders the entire length of the corridor where the work is being done on both sides of the road,” Pickering said. “A lot of the traffic generated on this road is a result of the university and its location.”

The project extends about a mile from Lincoln Street to Loop Road on Summit Street. Construction will affect some surrounding side roads as well. Road work is scheduled to begin the summer of 2015.

Pickering says despite some future construction headaches, the community will be rewarded with a more manageable road in the end.

“In my mind, Summit Street is probably the biggest priority right now,” Giaquinto said. “We want to reduce crashes and congestion.”

Summit Street will undergo total reconstruction. Giaquinto says the design plans for new asphalt, curbs, sidewalks, traffic signals, lighting, underground drainage, medians and more. The intersections of Ted Boyd Drive and Summit Street and West Campus Center Drive and Summit Street will be replaced with roundabouts.

The intersection of Summit Street and Lincoln Street is especially out of date and in need of upgrading. Giaquinto says reconstruction will also equip this location with new crosswalks and traffic signals. The current traffic lights in the intersection are not electronic in nature; they are mechanical.

“The equipment on Summit and Lincoln is some of the oldest,” Giaquinto said. “The equipment ranges back to before the ‘70’s.”

The project also involves safely accommodating other means of transportation. The design provides new pull-off areas for buses, new crosswalks and pedestrian push buttons, and new bike lanes. Also, the city will update traffic lights with cameras and new software.

Kent State is involved with providing better crosswalks on Summit Street for students. The locations of certain buildings and parking areas determine crosswalk placement.

“We try to give them the best route possible,” Giaquinto said. “It’s about connecting the different destination points.”

Giaquinto estimates the entire Summit Street project will be completed sometime in 2017 unless any complications occur. He said many traffic projects arise due to safety issues along with an assortment of other reasons. Summit Street is within the top ten crash zones in the city.

Contact Rachel Sluss at [email protected].