Residents question state Route 47 project changes

By Sheryl Roadcap -

SIDNEY — Several Sidney residents voiced their concerns about impending changes on state Route 47 between Fourth Avenue and Walnut Avenue at Monday night’s Sidney City Council meeting.

Plans are in the works to change the stretch of state Route 47 leading into the downtown district by reducing the road from four-lanes down to a two-lane road and place bike paths along both sides of the roadway. The road will be changed by lines painted upon the road, not a physical reduction in the paved roadway.

The design is also expected to include a single lane roundabout at Wilkinson Avenue and a median design change. The city’s aim is to reduce the number of accidents in this area. A traffic analysis conducted by Ohio Department of Transportation (ODOT) revealed that of the 10 highest accident intersections in the city, eight were located along state Route 47.

During Monday night’s meeting, several residents took issue with potential changes of the lane reduction, the possibility of a roundabout and questioned a speed change from 45- down to 35-miles per hour. These changes were discussed in October by forum leaders during the third and final public meeting for informing the city’s five year comprehensive plan.

Sidney resident Chris Wooddell had several specific questions hoping “to get a better understanding of the project.”

One of Wooddell’s questions was if ODOT is requiring the changes. City Manager Mark Cundiff said ODOT is not requiring the city to makes the changes, but they needed ODOT’s approval with the guardrail replacement. Cundiff said they were advised by a comprehensive plan consultant, who looked at the accident and traffic counts on this stretch of roadway, that Sidney would qualify for funding. Assistant City Manager/Public Works Director Gary Clough assured Wooddell “there is no way it will be reduced to 35” from the current speed limit of 45-miles per hour.

“Hopefully this decision is on merits of traffic flow … because I was told if you don’t like (this project), you must not like change. Well, that’s not necessarily the case,” Wooddell said, after asking details involved with project decision-making.

Sidney resident Gary Heitmeyer spoke about his concern the city was looking for the state to help fund “a beautification project” of the median on state Route 47 without feedback from the public before decisions are finalized.

Semitrailer driver/Sidney resident Joe Sturm shared his apprehension of keeping his truck off the curbs and from going all over the road with the addition of a roundabout and lane reduction.

Among others, resident Mike Freisthler expressed concern of a roundabout and said he “doesn’t see how one lane will work” on state Route 47 because its a busy road. However, he suggested the city perform a trial to see how it will effect traffic.

Council member Steve Wagner shared residents’ concerns about the potential changes and agreed that the city should conduct a trial run with cones to see if it would cause “unintended consequences.” He called for trial to take place prior to the project public meeting set for March 16. Council member Ed Hamaker and Vice Mayor Mardie Milligan liked the experiment idea and called for the trial-run, as well.

Cundiff said they already had “kind of” a trial run during the period of curb construction, when a large portion of that roadway was shut down, and did not receive any complaints.

Council member Darryl Thurber said he was open to the trial run but asked if it would create a liability for the city? Law Director Jeffrey Amick said as long as the signage followed ODOT regulations, it shouldn’t be a liability.

Thurber also reminded council that during the discussion phase, the city had the option to go in two different directions with or with out the roundabout.

Council member Janet Born also voiced concern about the safety of bicyclists on each side of the roadway. She wondered if there would be a barrier to help protect against injury. Barhorst said usually there is not a barrier present on these type of paths on streets.

A public meeting will be held on March 16 on the state Route 47 median project.

By Sheryl Roadcap

Reach the writer at 937-538-4823.

Reach the writer at 937-538-4823.