Traffic in Montrose, the result of rapid growth and poor land-use decisions, is getting much attention these days, and deservedly so. Developers, planners, businesses and local governments are all struggling to reduce congestion that can bring traffic to a crawl, even on the seven lanes of state Route 18, the area’s main artery.
A proposed Walmart and Sam’s Club development on Rothrock Road in Copley Township became a flash point, a judge recently upholding the city of Fairlawn’s closure of Rothrock Road to prevent traffic from affecting residential neighborhoods. Moving forward, a closer look must be taken at the developer’s responsibility to address legitimate worries about bringing more vehicles into an already overcrowded area.
The Ohio Department of Transportation is looking at widening Route 18 west of Interstate 77 and closing off Montrose West Avenue at Route 18, traffic rerouted onto Heritage Woods Drive to gain access to restaurants and hotels. Although the widening is popular, Copley Township, nearby homeowners and businesses object to closing Montrose West Avenue.
If there is an upside to the controversies, it may be found in a new study being funded by the Akron Metropolitan Area Transportation Study, in partnership with Bath and Copley townships. A $50,000 federal grant will be used to look at ways to encourage walking, bicycling and use of public transportation, even developing green space and giving Montrose more of a neighborhood feel.
The planning process is a welcome way for the townships to work together, and with businesses and residents, to soften the effects of decades of sprawl. Montrose has succeeded in attracting people, creating a density with elements akin to an urban neighborhood. Sadly, a lack of coordination among Bath and Copley townships and the city of Fairlawn has left a landscape dominated by cars and massive parking lots.
Sidewalks and bus shelters are limited, crossing Route 18 is almost impossible and riding a bicycle is extremely hazardous. In other words, Montrose must be re-examined from a human scale and re-engineered to create a sense of place from what is now an unplanned jumble of big-box stores, strip commercial development and restaurants.