We knew it was coming but it still pains me to say it — nothing says Spring has arrived better than traffic detours in Kent.
Even though it’s all in the name of progress, I was definitely feeling some guilt over the traffic tie ups that emerged last week when we reduced 4 lanes of traffic to 2 on SR43 to start the next phase of the Fairchild Avenue bridge project.
Any time you cut the number of lanes in half, the results are not going to be good, and they weren’t. The first day is always the worst and as I watched the traffic congestion grow during the evening rush hour I could feel everyone’s pain.
It took me back to my days as a Public Works Director in Kingsport Tennessee when a well meaning street supervisor closed a lane of a local highway to repair a broken sidewalk and inadvertently caused a major traffic jam during rush hour. After realizing the error the lanes were re-opened that afternoon. Discouraged by his mis-judgment the new supervisor asked if he could post a traffic sign apologizing to motorists — I said sure.
This small act of contrition was picked up by the local media and then by the national media with stories run all over the nation about the city in Tennessee that cared so much about its citizens that it actually apologized for causing a traffic jam.
This situation is different — because there’s no other choice than to reduce the lanes — but just the same I was getting ready to go into the closet and pull out the old sign.
So on behalf of your City please accept my apologies for the abundance of traffic detours these days. I figure the least I can do is offer some explanation with why were doing what we’re doing to you as you try to get around town.
1. SR59 Signals — In case you had not noticed the great new traffic signals on SR59 aren’t playing together so well. It turns out that we lost communications with the traffic signals on E. Main Street from Willow to Horning Roads when a contractor accidentally crushed the conduit and fiber-optic line that connected the signals with our control center. The end result is that the signals on E. Main Street from Willow to Horning are running independently (no progression capabilities). Therefore we are seeing more traffic delays as traffic traveling the corridor will not move as freely as before. We are still working with the contractor to temporarily repair the line and then permanently replace the line but it will likely be weeks (possibly months) before we can regain computer inter-operability and optimize the timing to better coordinate traffic flow in the corridor.
2. Fairchild Bridge/SR43 — As noted above, on Monday April 2nd traffic was reduced from 4 lanes to 2 lanes on SR43; 1 northbound lane and 1 southbound lane from Fairchild Avenue to Stinaff Street, in order to allow the bridge contractor to resume work on the street approaches to the bridge on SR43. With only 2 lanes of traffic the Engineering Division had to prohibit the southbound left turn movement on SR43 to prevent southbound traffic from coming to a complete stand still. With that restriction in place, the Engineering Division was worried that motorists would try to jump through the adjoining neighborhoods to get around this new congestion so they closed Cuyahoga Street and Stinaff Street. The Engineering staff has been on site watching the see how the traffic patterns respond to the changes and they have made adjustments to the timing of the signals to better handle the new patterns. For the first couple of days, the Police also stayed on site to warn motorists to not make the probited left turn movement . The motorists seem to be settling in to the new pattern but this congestion will continue through the summer as the work on SR43 progresses.
3. S. Water Street — With the brick nearly completed on the east elavation of the new Davey Tree building, Premier/Fairmount will move the brick masons to begin the west elevation that fronts on Water Street. The brick masons are planning to begin to install the brick facing on the Water Street side on 4/9/12. The brick contractors will be using scaffolding and a large piece of equipment that will extend partially into the street and occassionally block traffic when it is moved in and out at the front of the building. The contractors expect to have to move the equipment an estimated 5 times a day and each time they move it, they will impede traffic flow for about 5 minutes. The contractors will have flaggers on site to maintain traffic flow and the work is expected to be completed by 4/27/12.
4. Depeyster Street — At this point, with construction underway on both sides of Depeyster Street, there is too much heavy equipment moving in and out from both sides of the street and the Engineering Division felt that for motorist safety reasons, Depeyster Street should be closed to thru traffic. This closure will likely stay in place for the next 4-6 months until the street is rebuilt as planned for the redevelopment project.
5. Redmond Bridge — If you don’t have kids in baseball or softball, the closing of the Redmond bridge into Kramer fields might not mean that much to you but if you do, it probably means a lot and you wondering why is it taking 2 years to get this small bridge replaced? The bottom line is that we had a chance to get nearly $1 million in Federal dollars to replace the bridge but the Federal process takes 2-3 years from funding application to construction so we are unfortunately at the mercy of the Federal timetable. Here’s more details from City Engineer Jim Bowling:
First it takes years to go through the federal process to fund, design, complete the environmental studies, right-of-way acquisition, permitting and construct a bridge project. When federal money is received for a project, this one received $968,000 in federal funds, municipalities are required to complete the project according to the federal process listed in Chapter 23 of the Code of Federal Regulations. This includes numerous studies for cultural resources, hazordous materials, ecological studies and section 4f studies. For this project in particular a recent snag was encountered with the potential designation of Category 3 wetlands around the bridge. Category 3 wetlands are the most sensitive category. We have had representatives from Army Corp of Engineers and ODOT Office of Environmental Services do a site visit in an effort to help determine the category of wetland. This alone has gone on for several months. In addition to the studies, there are numerous permits required for work in a waterway like the Cuyahoga River, these include floodplain permits, Army Corp of Engineer permits and OEPA permits. The floodplain permit requires a detailed study of the floodplain and the impacts the proposed structure will have on the floodplain. This permit and study analyzes whether we will be increasing the flood elevation by the construction of the new bridge. All of the above studies and results are then summarized with public comments and input as part of the Categorical Exclusion Document that will be completed and approved by ODOT. None of this includes the actual design, bidding and construction of the project. Replacing the bridge will cost approximately $1.3 million dollars, funding this without federal money is simply not an option budgetarily.
Work in the Background:
Typically all of the above studies, permits, design and bidding are done well in advance in preparation for the construction of a project. All the work that we see currently going forward in downtown and throughout the City was started years ago. The most obvious is the Crain Avenue Bridge Relocation that started in 1994. John Idone and the engineering division had begun the process of replacing the bridge before it was closed when we obtained municipal bridge funds for the bridges replacement. However the bridge simply deteriorated faster than we could get the funding for it to be replaced.
None of this may bring the satisfaction you lost from having detours all over Kent but perhaps you can take some solace in knowing that these are not capricious or random acts of unkindness.