More Middlebury Road Bridge Discussion
As we continue to work with CSX to finalize a settlement on the lawsuit that would allow the city to install the new bridge, I’ve received a couple of notes from concerned residents about the prospect of increased traffic on Middlebury Road once the bridge is replaced. Obviously while the bridge has been out of service the traffic has been quiet but when the bridge is replaced it will definitely resume and I can understand the concerns of residents that live along Middlebury Road.
As a former Transportation Director I am all too familiar with the tension that occurs along roads that have residential properties but serve as collector streets. Middlebury Road is a great example of this dilemma. (For more information on street classification click here).
Even in the world of traffic calming, where efforts are made to better protect residential neighborhoods, most communities limit traffic calming measures to streets that carry less than 4,000 vehicles per day. Middlebury Road carries 5,000 vehicles per day which puts it very clearly in the role of a collector street, which means it was designed to move traffic. Now that’s hard to hear of you live on a street like that but it’s an important piece of information when it comes to considering the overall problem.
I’ve yet to find an easy fix for this dilemma but Gene Roberts, Kent’s Service Director, offers an excellent summary specific to Middlebury Road.
First, a resident’s concern:
I have recently read about the developments on the Middlebury Rd. bridge project and would like to express my thoughts as a resident of Middlebury Rd.
First, not everyone is upset that the bridge is closed. I realize that a new bridge is inevitable, but I would implore you to reconsider what type of bridge is to be put in on Middlebury Rd. is not a thoroughfare, nor should it be considered a “feeder” road into Kent. That’s the purpose of St. Rt. 59, 261 Bypass, and St. Rt. 43. According to the Akron Metropolitan Area Transportation Study, 2,760 cars currently use the Middlebury Rd. daily (a 30% reduction) and that’s without the bridge! What will become of Middlebury Rd. if you continue your current course of action to put in a two-lane, truck-rated bridge? I cringe to think how much more traffic will barrel down our residential street speeding, running stop signs and ruining the road in the name of shaving off a few minutes. Since the bridge will eventually be put in, I would suggest it remain a one-lane bridge that allows only car traffic. This would be a viable solution for the residents. First, it would appease those folks who want to see the bridge re-opened and secondly, it would keep big trucks off our residential streets. This appears to be a win-win solution, without adding undue financial burden or stress on the residents who have to live along Middlebury.
Secondly, I found it interesting that City Council is looking into a city-wide trash pickup service since they feel there is too much truck traffic on residential streets. Yet, this same Council is not worried about truck traffic on Middlebury Rd ? Clearly, this is a conflict. How can you state that you are worried about truck traffic on residential streets, yet totally ignore those same needs of Middlebury Rd? In a recent Akron Beacon Journal article, a council person said, “How do you make the railroad see that they’re not being good neighbors?” My question to those addressed above is: How are you being good neighbors by insisting on replacing the one-lane bridge with a two-lane, truck-rated bridge? If your concern about truck traffic on residential streets is genuine, it will also be a genuine concern for Middlebury Rd. residents. Posting “No Trucks” signs would be a farce, kind of like the “optional” stop sign at Janet Drive and Middlebury. We need real solutions that will work long-term.
I thank you for your time and would appreciate any feedback Council or city government officials could offer on this problem. Please consider the best options for ALL of Kent‘s residents.
Second, Gene’s Reply:
Thank you for your email of June 12, 2006. The Middlebury Road Bridge over the CSXT railroad tracks has caused a great deal of concern for most if not all of the residents in your neighborhood and additionally I have heard from those from outside of your neighborhood.
Your concern regarding increased traffic when the bridge opens is understandable. The traffic that is anticipated to return on I worked on this project starting in July 2003 and I have reviewed the information assembled prior to my involvement. I found where you expressed your concern regarding the one-lane bridge replacement as a two-lane bridge during the public meetings held prior to the new bridge design. The results of the resident concerns were presented at a meeting of Kent City Council. In considering this matter I believe Council took into account the information gathered by City staff as well as information received directly by Council members during discussion with individual residents. It is reported that most of the residents that talked with Council members directly were in favor of the bridge at a ratio of 9 to 1.
Reviewing the Council meeting minutes I believe your general increased traffic and specifically the additional truck traffic concerns were heard by council. The motion to proceed with construction of a two-lane bridge also includes instructions to staff to sign the bridge to allow for local truck traffic only and to include traffic calming on Middlebury Road as part of the project.
Middlebury Road has been a “thoroughfare” for a couple centuries. Middlebury was given its name because the road ran from Kent (then Franklin Village) to the village of Middlebury that is located at the current site of the Goodyear Tire and Rubber Company in Akron. In reviewing old documents I believe the roadway in Akron named Goodyear Boulevard Kent. The reason I provide you with the history of Middlebury is to explain that Middlebury was truly a major thoroughfare that overtime was down graded by the later construction of SR261.
Your reference to AMATS regarding the current traffic counts (with the bridge closed) is accurate. However, I must also point out the AMATS recognizes Middlebury Road as Minor Arterial street. The designation of a Minor Arterial does provide the City with the ability in the future to request and if available receive funding for future repair of the bridge. Additionally the fact that Middlebury Road is designated as a Minor Arterial also requires that the City build the new bridge to current design standards in order to be eligible for any future funding. The current design standards for a bridge on a Minor Arterial are a minimum of two lanes.
Please do not miss understand me in anyway as saying the City does not care about the residents living near or on Middlebury Road. Kent City Council has given clear direction to minimize the impact of the new bridge and the Engineering Division is currently following that direction. Engineering is looking at ways to place traffic calming along Middlebury Road to slow traffic. The new bridge will be signed allowing only local truck traffic.
I know that this response is not what you were hoping for in the form of a one-lane bridge but equally I want to say that the City is committed to do all with in its power to minimize the new two-lane bridge impact on the Middlebury Road residents.