YOUNGSTOWN YSU hopes to bring back Wick elegance

YSU got $2.1 million in federal funds to improve major streets on campus.
YOUNGSTOWN -- Youngstown State University wants to restore some of the sense of elegance that once graced Wick Avenue.
Wick is an important historical cultural district in Youngstown as well as a gateway into the downtown area, said Hunter Morrison, director of the Center for Urban and Regional Studies at YSU.
Restoring some of its historical elegance is high on the list of road improvements on campus, improvements that will be funded by a $2.1 million federal transportation allocation being channeled through the Ohio Department of Transportation.
Three streets targeted
The work targets three streets -- Wick, Rayen and Fifth avenues -- that once marked the boundaries of YSU, calling for both safety and aesthetic improvements.
The university has expanded over the years, and those streets now run through the campus.
"These are major entrances into the city, not just the campus," Morrison said, explaining that YSU is working with the city, Eastgate Regional Council of Governments, ODOT and others to finalize project plans.
This is really a partnership with the city because the streets are public rights-of-way, he said. The project will enhance the attractiveness and economic viability of downtown as well as improve pedestrian safety and traffic flow, he said.
The federal assistance, announced two weeks ago, is also expected to pay for the possible extension of Hazel Street, a move that would expand the campus connection to the downtown business district, Morrison said. Hazel now runs north from Front Street but dead-ends at Wood Street, short of the YSU campus.
Direct link
The plan is to extend the street north to Lincoln Avenue and tie it to campus walkways, opening a direct link that would make walking or driving from campus to downtown more convenient, Morrison said.
The university is working with the city, the Diocese of Youngstown and other property owners in the area to determine the best route for the extension, he said.
Wick Avenue once was lined with Victorian lawns that helped define it and restoring some of those lawns would be a part of proposed the street improvements. Putting overhead wiring underground, landscaping, improving crosswalks and doing things that will encourage traffic to move slower through the campus are also part of the plan, Morrison said.
Wick isn't a campus boundary any more. It's a centerline, he said.
Fifth Avenue is a wide and fast street where some median strips and safety islands can be added to aid pedestrians while providing a better balance between vehicular and foot traffic, Morrison said.
Bicycle lanes
The plan is also looking at creating bicycle lanes along Fifth that could lead to a direct link from campus to Mill Creek MetroParks. The city already owns most of the land that would be needed, he noted, adding that the link could eventually be extended to city parks on Wick Avenue.
Rayen Avenue is a very functional urban arterial, he said, but, "It doesn't say, 'Welcome to our campus.'"
It will get a lot more foot traffic in the future as the university plans to move its business college to the south side of the street, a project that is in the programming stages right now, Morrison said.
Installing some crosswalks, putting overhead wiring underground, adding landscaping and looking at some traffic-calming changes that would slow vehicles moving through the campus are all being considered, he said.
There is no time frame in place yet for making the improvements, Morrison said, explaining that ODOT controls the money and the clock.
"We want to move as quickly as possible, obviously," he said.
All of those involved have shown a level of consensus and commitment to moving forward, he said.

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