Open houses spark conversation about possibilities for Kent Central Gateway

Cory Smith

The first glimpse of the proposed Kent transit system had many questioning the possibility of such a large project.

Two open houses were held yesterday, one in the Student Center and the other in the Kent City Council chambers, to review conceptual layouts for a proposed Kent transit facility being called the Kent Central Gateway.

Jon Ridinger, senior music major and lifelong Kent resident, said the city and the university must work together if they want a new transportation system.

“I am cautiously optimistic about the possibility of the transit system,” he said. “The city and the university have a strenuous relationship, but working together on this proposal and completing it will help bridge the gap.”

Janice Kelly, a Kent resident, agreed with Ridinger.

“The idea seems a bit on the outer limits to me,” she said. “It is one thing to create a proposal; it is another to get retailers and funding.”

TranSystems, a Columbus-based consulting agency, displayed four different schemes during the open houses. Public meetings in November helped finalize the area bounded by Main Street, Haymaker Parkway and Depeyster Street as the proposed site.

The four possibilities all include a public bus system, bike paths, a parking garage, green space and a bridge over Haymaker Parkway connecting the campus to the transit center.

The differences among the schemes is the entry and exit points to the bus terminals and the access to the parking garage. The two options for the bus terminal access points are intersections of Depeyster and Main streets or Depeyster Street and Haymaker Parkway. The parking garage may be accessed from either Depeyster, Erie or Main streets.

A steady crowd of interested residents and students paced back and fourth the chamber hallway, looking at the different schemes. The attendees asked questions and offered advice to the TranSystems staff and city officials.

The most common question: Where is the money coming from?

The answer is still unknown. A committee with representatives from the City of Kent, the Portage Area Regional Transportation Authority (PARTA), Kent State and local representatives will decide how to proceed with the project in the summer.

Kelly is concerned about keeping Kent’s aesthetic beauty.

“Kent is a small town and we don’t need a three level structure here,” she said referring to the proposed garage. “I prefer the structure to be underground versus above. I want to preserve the existing neighborhood.”

Ridinger thinks the transit system is a good idea because it would benefit the university and the city.

“If built, there will be more retailers, parking available downtown and for commuters, and a way to go from the campus to downtown and back,” he said.

Councilman Gene Roberts said this type of public forum makes for the best possible results.

“Public input may be more time consuming, but with this approach, the end project will better because of the discussion,” he said. “People seem excited about the idea.”

John Sikish, a TranSystems employee, said the company has worked on a similar public transportation system at Illinois State using the same public approach.

“Public input is vitally important part of the design process,” he said.

Contact public affairs reporter Cory Smith at [email protected].