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Ideas flow to solve Montrose issues

5/22/2014 - West Side Leader
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By Pam Lifke

BATH — Ideas for making Montrose safer, more attractive and easier to navigate were flowing from the more than 30 people who attended a May 15 public meeting at Acme Fresh Market in Montrose seeking their input for the Montrose Connectivity Plan.

More — and more attractive — streetscapes, roundabouts, connected parking lots, pedestrian bridges and fewer curb cuts on state Route 18 were just some of the ideas meeting attendees floated.

Last year, Copley and Bath townships were successful on their fourth try at securing a $50,000 Connecting Communities planning grant to study the busy regional shopping destination, according to Bath Trustee Elaina Goodrich. Last week’s meeting, organized by the Akron Metropolitan Transportation Study (AMATS), METRO Regional Transit Authority (RTA) and the two townships, is one more step in the planning process, which Environmental Design Group (EDG) Senior Planner/Project Manager Michelle Johnson said should culminate by the end of the year. EDG is the firm hired to do conceptual design and complete the plan.

An online AMATS survey from August 2013 was a starting point for the planning. From the 740 responses, half from the Copley-Bath-Fairlawn areas, officials learned an overwhelming majority, 98 percent, get to the area by car, said Copley Trustee Helen Humphrys and Goodrich in a presentation of key findings. And the drivers aren’t all that happy about it. Although most said there are about the right number of parking spaces, 85 percent said it was difficult to drive in Montrose, the survey said. The biggest obstacle to driving in Montrose is the unconnected parking lots, they said.

Most survey respondents, 70 percent, said they would like more sidewalks and crosswalks, and most respondents said crossing state Route 18 on foot was not an option, said Humphrys and Goodrich.

Only 4 percent of respondents found the area visually appealing and 77 percent said they would like more landscaping, said Humphrys.

Humphrys said she was pleased by the turnout and by the input they were receiving.

“They’re giving us some excellent ideas. Everything they’re telling us is what we thought,” she said.

Kris Liljeblad, planning director for METRO RTA, was gathering input for possible fall route and schedule changes for the Montrose area. He said METRO is actively seeking a permanent location for a transit hub to take the place of the Flight Memorial Drive layover site. Ideally, METRO would wait until the connectivity plan is complete before settling on a site, he said. Liljeblad said METRO is seeking a short-term solution, as it has been asked to move from the Flight Memorial location, as well as a permanent transit hub. The Montrose area is “a challenge” for bus riders, who have no sidewalks and no crosswalks to use as they walk to work from the bus stop, Liljeblad added. He said METRO hoped to locate the permanent hub in a “sweet spot” for the more than 200 passengers who get on and off the bus at the Flight Memorial stop.

The near-term solution, which includes a temporary building with a driver-only restroom and space for three to four buses, could be located off Rothrock Road. The permanent solution would be more centrally located and would provide walking access to more destinations, he said. The permanent structure would feature an indoor waiting area, he added.

Krista Beniston, a transportation planner with AMATS, said she also was pleased with the turnout. She said the information gathered in the meeting’s break-out sessions will be used as a complement to the survey and planners will be looking for comments and data that appeared repeatedly.

Although the number of people who walk in the Montrose area is small, Beniston said there is an equity issue. She said the Downtown Akron-Montrose METRO route is the agency’s most-used route and mass transit and pedestrian issues keep rising to the top of the comments. The $50,000 study won’t be able to solve all the issues in Montrose, but Beniston said it’s a good start.

Johnson said the final plan will present concepts and cost estimates for completing chunks of the overall design. She said the stakeholders wanted to be able to implement individual elements of the plan, which will dictate the final product, she said.

Additional public comments on the project may be submitted via email to amats@akronohio.gov.

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