MARIETTA - Four of Marietta City Council's seven members have taken a stand on the proposed $3.2 million traffic and pedestrian safety upgrade of the Seventh, Pike and Greene streets intersection.
"To make this easy, I'll vote no on this project. You're going to inconvenience a lot of people," Councilman Tom Vukovic, D-4th Ward, said during an extended session of council's streets and transportation committee Wednesday.
But three fellow council members who attended the session, including Denver Abicht, D-at large, Michael Mullen, I-at large, and Mike McCauley, D-2nd Ward, pledged yes votes for the project.
Traffic moves through the Pike, Greene and Seventh streets intersection.
"We're getting a 90-cent return rate on our dime for this project," Mullen said. "This makes too much sense, and businesses in that area are supportive because this plan provides easy in-easy out access and would relieve traffic congestion."
Vukovic's main point of contention is that the proposed plan would prohibit a left turn from South Seventh Street onto North Greene Street (Ohio 26) that traffic studies show is used by about 1,000 out of 50,000 drivers who pass through the intersection daily.
Not being able to make the left turn would require residents headed for Norwood neighborhoods to proceed north on Pike Street and through two traffic signals to access their homes.
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"People aren't going to jump up and down because they'll have to sit through two more traffic lights," said McCauley.
Abicht, who chairs the streets and transportation committee, said he placed the issue on Wednesday's agenda because after a couple of years of studies and more than $300,000 expended on preliminary engineering and designs, it was time for council to make a decision.
"We've been sitting and sitting on this, and we need to decide whether to move forward with this project," he said.
Eric Lambert, project engineer with the city engineering department, presented the committee with the results of a public comment and questionnaire survey that was taken in the weeks following a special public informational session on the proposed project held at Washington State Community College in December.
He noted there were only 18 response forms submitted, including some from council members. But all of the respondents agreed there are traffic congestion, traffic safety, and pedestrian safety problems at the intersection.
There was disagreement from some respondents as to whether the proposed project would improve those conditions, but a clear majority believed the upgrades would make a positive difference.
In his report, Lambert noted that studies indicate the number of vehicle accidents would be reduced from 22 per year to 13 per year at the intersection, and injury or fatality accidents would drop from 4.25 to 2.9 a year if the project is completed.
Council members Harley Noland, D-at large and Steve Thomas, D-3rd Ward, were not in attendance at Wednesday's committee meeting, and Councilman Roger Kalter, D-1st Ward, had left before the others indicated how they would vote on the project proposal.
Mayor Joe Matthews suggested Abicht schedule another meeting with all seven councilmen next week to get a final vote on whether the intersection project should move ahead.
The proposed preliminary design alternative for the project, which is supported by the city engineering department, would include dual left turn lanes for northbound traffic from Ohio 7 onto north Seventh Street as well as dual left turn lanes from north Seventh Street onto Ohio 7 north.
The current left turn from north Seventh Street onto Greene Street at the Speedway store would be eliminated in favor of a right-turn only onto Greene from Seventh and a right-turn only onto Seventh Street from Greene.
A signal-protected left turn lane would also be provided for southbound traffic on Ohio 7 to turn onto south Seventh Street. A pedestrian island would also be installed at that location.
Other improvements include the installation of Americans with Disabilities Act-compliant signalized pedestrian crosswalks and curb ramps across Ohio 7 as well as across Greene and north Seventh streets.
In addition, the alley along Hardwood Center Drive and old Pike Street just east of the intersection would be improved to a two-lane corridor between Greene and Ohio 7 to provide access to businesses located in that area.
The majority of funding for the project would come from $2.3 million in Ohio Department of Transportation Safety Funds, and $504,150 from the Wood, Washington, Wirt Interstate Planning Commission. A local match of $389,637 would be required from the city.