Meetings underway for Summit Street improvements

Bo Gemmell

The first meeting of the Summit Street improvement project brought 20 residents, city employees and university staff members to the Student Center last night to discuss congestion and safety.

The city secured about $11.5 million in federal funding to improve the 1.05-mile stretch of Summit Street between Lincoln Street and Loop Road. The section includes three of the city’s top four vehicular crash sites.

Jon Giaquinto, senior engineer for Kent, says the federal funding will finance about 80 percent of the project, with the city and the university covering the rest.

City engineer Jim Bowling directed the meeting. He said the main problems on the street include heavy congestion, accidents and poor access for pedestrians and bicyclists.

“The next couple of months are going to busy,” he said. “The goal of this committee is to help guide us.”

Bowling said construction won’t start until 2013, but the committee will meet bi-weekly through August to discuss concerns and figure alternate routes.

URS, a national engineering firm with offices in Northeast Ohio, began surveying and researching traffic at the proposed site last October. Jeff Noble, Highway Development Manager for URS, said themes for the project include sidewalks down both sides of the road and turn lanes where necessary.

“We want to try to incorporate everybody’s concerns,” Noble said.

URS passed out maps with proposed conceptual improvements. One of the main concerns of URS and the rest of the group was the intersection at East Summit and South Lincoln streets.

“This intersection has been a significant problem for years,” Noble said. “There are a ton of rear-end accidents.”

He said the old traffic signal and the downward slope of the street contribute to the high crash rate because drivers underestimate how much force they need to apply to the brakes when driving downhill.

The committee will discuss the conceptual plans and add suggestions at future meetings. The next meeting is scheduled for 7 p.m April 14 with a location to be determined.

–Bo Gemmell