STREETSBORO — Though many, including the mayor and police chief, in Streetsboro believe the state Route 14 widening project will improve the safety of the corridor, some who live and work along the road would like to see more to ensure safety of drivers and pedestrians.
Starting in the spring of 2021, Route 14 between Portage Pointe Drive, near the former Kmart, and Diagonal Road will receive a center turn lane, curbs and gutters. Sidewalks also will be added on the north side of the road.
Steve Rebillot, a planning manager for the Ohio Department of Transportation, said the project will cost about $6.5 million. The agency’s safety program is covering $3.1 million of the cost, with AMATS — the Akron Metropolitan Area Transportation Study — paying $2.65 million. Streetsboro’s share is $750,000.
Police Chief Darin Powers clarified in an email that the lane planned for Route 14 will be a left turn lane only — not for through traffic. With a center turn lane, he wrote, vehicles can move to that lane to make their left turn and through traffic can continue moving without stopping.
Mayor Glenn Broska said safety studies conducted by ODOT determined that widening the stretch would be the best option to increase safety. The study found that the overwhelming majority of crashes that occurred in that area were caused by “failure to maintain assured clear distance,” he said. Crashes of that nature occur when a stopped vehicle is struck from behind because a driver failed to slow down and stop.
These types of crashes happen in the area because of the multitude of residential and business driveways located along the corridor, according to Broska.
“The majority of the accidents have been at those turns,” Broska said. “Someone was stopped to turn left into one of those roads and, for whatever reason, the people behind them didn’t stop and ran into them or ran off the road to avoid the collision.”
Jeff Allen, a longtime homeowner and business owner on Route 14, agreed that the widening project is a necessity. However Allen, who is also a candidate for Streetsboro mayor, worries what issues it may create.
With a 50-year history on the road, Allen is no stranger to its traffic.
A lot of development has come to the area since the 1960s when he first established Allen Alloys and Iron, 8693 Route 14. With the high school built there as well, traffic has become tougher to navigate, he said. Allen, who lives about a mile away from his business — which is now owned and operated by one of his sons — said traffic is regularly blocked back to his house in the morning.
He told a story about how an employee of the business who lives just across the street is unable to turn left and into the scrap yard’s lot— the simplest route. Instead, she has to make a right turn out of her property and turn around in the driveway of a nearby business before she can make her way back toward her job.
Though he believes a left turn lane on Route 14 is a necessity, Allen is concerned it will create even fewer breaks in traffic and make turns out of homes and businesses more difficult. Because people will not have to slow down for turning cars, he said, he worries drivers will speed along the busy corridor more than usual. To combat this, Allen said he would like to see a traffic light implemented near one of the residential areas on Route 14, possibly by Summers Avenue or Deer Meadow Boulevard.
While Allen was against the high school being built on Route 14, he said he accepts that it is there now and that the city needs to make the road as safe as possible for children. The sidewalks planned for the north side of Route 14 are a great addition to the city, he said, but he is concerned that the plan is to build them on the other side of the road, opposite the high school.
A crosswalk with lights synced with the nearby traffic light will be maintained, Broska said, but Allen is worried it may not be enough for the frequent traffic. He would like to see an increased police presence in that area. Powers wrote that officers will continue to monitor and patrol the school zone areas throughout the school year.
“We have to keep the kids safe,” Allen said. “We’re the adults that built the school down there so it’s our job to make sure it's as safe as it possibly can get.”
Powers said that officers likely travel Route 14 more than any road in the city. Radar units are constantly monitoring speeds of traffic whether moving or stationary. Anyone traveling over the posted speed limit can be stopped, however, he added, most officers may make some allowances to account for various factors such as traffic conditions.
Broska said there have not been discussions about permanently reducing the speed limit of the corridor. He said he thinks the current speed limit is more than safe. However, if crashes continue once the turn lane is added, he said more studies will be performed to determine frequency and cause.
“At that time, if it shows that people are going too fast through there, then we would definitely look at considering lowering the speed limit through there,” Broska said. “But as it stands right now, every indication that we have shows the overwhelming majority of accidents are caused by assured clear distance.”
School Board President Kevin Grimm said in an email that he does not foresee the project or its construction creating safety issues for students. He added that the school district will maintain communication with city officials and immediately address any concerns that arise regarding the project.
“I believe, in fact, I know that the traveling public will be much safer by doing this project,” Broska said. “And that’s why we’re gonna do the same project on (state Route) 43.”
Reporter Kaitlyn McGarvey can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or 330-298-1127. Follow her on Twitter at @ktlynmcgrvy.