SIDNEY —The city of Sidney aims to improve safety and travel for vehicles and non-motorized traffic, as well as enhance aesthetics, with the state Route 47 corridor improvement project.
Potential changes to the stretch of road between Fourth Avenue and Walnut Avenue on state Route 47 is the subject of the Thursday, March 16, public meeting at the Senior Center of Sidney Shelby County, located at 304 S. West Ave., from 6 to 8 p.m. Local officials are asking for the public’s input about the project.
The design in the works is for a median design change, a reduction of four-lanes down to two-lanes and the addition of bike paths on both sides of the roadway leading into the downtown district. The road will be changed by lines painted upon the road, not a physical reduction in the paved roadway. The project may also include a single-lane roundabout at Wilkinson Avenue. Finally, an upgraded mast arm signal pole at Walnut Avenue will be added for increased visibility.
The public has had many questions about the project — and the potential roundabout, specifically. Assistant City Manager/Public Works Director Gary Clough explained to the Sidney Daily News that there are a couple of reasons from a safety stand-point for the roundabout part of the project.
“Right now there are some sight-distance problems at that intersection. If you are on the north side (of Wilkinson Avenue), coming out, you can’t see very well because of the bridge retaining wall and this angle of the street. So whenever you try to pull-out of there, it’s a little scary,” Clough said.
“On top of that, it’s where the speed limit changes. It’s 45 mph here (on state Route 47), and then you come into the transition of downtown, and I would say, right now, that transition doesn’t happen very smoothly. This is something that our consultant came up with that would provide a break where it would slow people down in the transition area, and bring them into downtown at a safer speed,” he continued.
City Manager Mark Cundiff said a couple of years ago, there was a proposal to shut-off the north side of Wilkinson Avenue because of the potential dangers at that intersection, but council listened to area property owners opposition, and instead decided to move forward with the corridor project. He said often when coming out of downtown, people quickly accelerate above the 35 mph posted speed limit, knowing that it increases to 45 mph after Wilkinson Avenue. Therefore, it creates a higher risk for a “T-bone” type of crash of a car traveling westbound on state Route 47 into the side of a car proceeding across state Route 47 on Wilkinson Avenue.
“The chances for the driver and passengers of both vehicles to get hurt are much higher than in a roundabout-type situation. With a roundabout, you have to slow down. Usually those accidents, if they occur, are more like glancing, fender-bender-type things, versus a T-bone (crash), when you get somebody pulling out and the other person just rams right into the side,” said Cundiff.
The need for improved safety is the reason the Ohio Department of Transportation (ODOT) granted Sidney the funding for the project. A safety study revealed, in 2014, the state Route 47 corridor is the state’s Highway Safety Program’s 79th ranked crash section at the location of Royan Avenue to the Highland Avenue overpass. Also, within the three-year-period of 2012 to 2014, there were seven bicycle related crashes, which is six times the state’s average, and four pedestrian related crashes, which is 2.6 times the state average.
According to information provided by the city, preliminary estimated cost of the project is approximately $3,712,500. Clough said 95 percent of the project will be funded by grants; 90 percent covered by the Small Cities Program grant through the Ohio Department of Transportation (ODOT), and five percent from the Transportation Alternative Program grant.
Cundiff said, “This project scored very high on (ODOT’s) funding, and that’s why we got the level of funding we did. It’s a pretty significant grant.”
Cundiff and Clough pointed out the suggested improvement plans are only preliminary. They said nothing is finalized yet, and the city is taking steps to obtain public input before Sidney City Council votes whether to move forward or not with the project.
Aside from the upcoming public meeting, they plan to carefully consider feedback from residents unable to attend the public meeting from the comment forms that were mailed to each citizen. Sent out, along with the comment form, was a public meeting notice, a sheet of answers to frequently asked questions about the project, and a visual aid map of the area that contains more information about the roundabout.
“We’ve got about a two and a half year process to do the final design of the plans. This project is not even due to be back until fall of 2019 with construction not starting until spring of 2020,” Clough said.
“I’m sure people have seen the survey crews out there working on it. We do have a contract to begin the work; if we didn’t have them starting on that, we wouldn’t be able to complete the project in the time that we need to complete the project. … This is preliminary work to be able to come up with the final plans.” Cundiff said. “It’s really not a done deal. Council could change their mind.”
Cundiff said if the mayor and council comes back to their next meeting after considering all the information and input, and four council members vote not to move forward, the project will end. He said they will still have all the gathered information for the future but that the city is not out anything, and the grant money will be returned and awarded to the next city/project in line.
At the last regular council meeting, council decided to wait on holding a simulated trail run of the project with cones, that would not include a roundabout. The trial would potentially cost the city approximately $18,000 for a two week trial. Council tabled the idea until after the public meeting scheduled for March 16.
Reach the writer at 937-538-4823.