KENT — One of Portage County’s most dangerous corridors may become safer in the next few years.
Kent City Council on Wednesday approved funding requests submitted to the Ohio Department of Transportation and the Akron Metropolitan Transportation Area Transportation Study to improve the stretch of road that makes up the East Main Street (state Route 59) corridor.
Though official plans have not been developed yet, Kent superintendent of engineering and deputy service director Jim Bowling told council the basic elements of the plan. They include four through lanes of traffic, a wider sidewalk on the north side of the road, bus pull-offs and improved lighting.
More detailed plans will be created once the funding needed to move forward is obtained, Bowling said during a later interview.
The project will cost $20 million total, Bowling said, with the city planning to pay 10% of the total cost, or $2 million, over the course of five years. Because the project is in its early stages, however, that amount may change, he added.
Funding for construction is predicted to become available in 2024 or 2025, Bowling told council. Then the city would move forward.
Requests for funding from organizations like the Ohio Public Works Commission and Federal Highway Administration will be requested at a later time.
“We are always looking for ways to help get projects funded all the way up until they are in construction,” Bowling said.
At a previous council meeting, Bowling told City Council that from 2016 to 2018, 12% of all crashes city-wide happened on the 0.8 mile of road that makes up the corridor in front of Kent State University.
“We have 90 miles of road and had 12% of them right there,” Bowling said. “Fifteen percent of all pedestrian crashes were in that same 0.8 mile stretch of road.”
According to a report, there were 93 crashes on the nearly half-mile stretch of East Main Street between Willow Street and Luther Avenue in front of Kent State between 2015 and 2017. However, Bowling pointed out that Summit Street on the south side of campus was closed between those years, which redirected traffic across campus onto East Main.
Bowling explained after Wednesday’s meeting that, similar to Summit Street before it underwent construction, East Main drivers encounter a lot of input while driving. Not only can they turn left and right, they need to watch the actions of cars ahead as well as pedestrians.
“If they’re doing that and moving too fast at the same time, it’s basically too many options, too many inputs for the driver to assimilate without making a mistake,” Bowling said. “Once they make a mistake, that’s when a crash happens.”
Councilman Roger Sidoti previously asked at another council meeting that if the south side of the East Main corridor is state property, could that help the city in its application process. Bowling said at that time that it helps because they’re hoping to build sidewalks on Kent State property as was done on Summit Street.
Bowling later added that the university is anticipated to be part of the corridor’s solution. KSU has already paid for half of the planning done to date for the project.
“We’re very excited about the opportunity here and the opportunity that’s created by working together with the neighborhoods to the north because they’re helping us come up with this solution as well as Kent State University to the south,” Bowling said. “We’re very excited about that relationship working together.”
Eileen McClory contributed to this report.
Reporter Kaitlyn McGarvey can be reached at email@example.com or 330-298-1127