ODOT to add light near Wal-Mart
By ED RUNYAN
VINDICATOR TRUMBULL STAFF
BAZETTA -- State transportation officials are planning to add a traffic light, and are considering other changes, to state Route 5 (Elm Road) at the entrance to a Wal-Mart Supercenter to be built on 24 acres starting in June.
Jennifer Richmond, spokeswoman for the Ohio Department of Transportation District 4 office in Akron, said the agency anticipates adding a traffic signal at the store's entrance on Millennium Boulevard.
Wal-Mart has also given ODOT three other proposals for right-turn lanes in the area that would improve the flow of traffic.
"It's important to note that none of the improvements would involve state money," she said. "Wal-Mart would pay for all of them."
The proposed changes are:
A dedicated right-turn lane on the westbound off-ramp of state Route 82 that would move traffic off of the highway and into a position to enter the Wal-Mart.
A right-turn lane in the southbound lane of Hoagland-Blackstub Road, also known as Bazetta Road, at Elm Road.
A right turn lane off of Millennium Boulevard heading north onto Elm Road.
Richmond said ODOT is waiting for more information from Wal-Mart's representatives before deciding what changes will be made, and there is no timetable for building them.
Mike Piros, Bazetta Township trustee, said he is happy that a traffic light is being planned, but trustees had hoped the state would align Bazetta Road with Heaton North service road, which serves the Four Seasons Car Wash and Warren Harley-Davidson.
At present, that road is about 20 yards north of Bazetta Road, causing some awkward crossings for traffic entering Elm from Heaton and Bazetta Road.
"It's not what we would have preferred, but it definitely will help," Piros said of the traffic light, noting that the Bazetta Road-Elm Road intersection has been problematic for years because it is difficult for traffic to turn north toward Cortland from Bazetta Road.
Piros said the traffic light at Millennium Boulevard and Elm Road will periodically stop traffic coming from the north. That will allow traffic turning north from Bazetta Road to concentrate on traffic coming from the south and provide easier access, he said.
Piros said he thinks the Bazetta Road/Heaton alignment plan won't occur because of the expense of such a project and the difficulty of securing the right of way that would be needed.
Effects on business
Jeff Bell, owner of Four Seasons, said that he has been told that the realignment of Bazetta and Heaton North might come after Wal-Mart is built and that he is "praying every night" for some sort of improvement there that will improve safety for customers driving onto Elm Road from his business. He said he fears the problem will only "compound itself" after the Wal-Mart opens.
Bell said he thinks it might help traffic flow from his business and the Harley dealership if vehicles could exit onto Millennium Boulevard, but so far he doesn't know whether that is being considered. That would require part of Heaton to be taken over by the state. The part of that road near the Harley dealership is a private road, he said.
Piros said he would prefer that the state make all of the improvements necessary in that area at once rather than in stages.
He said he thinks the new store will be good for the township and Trumbull County because it will create jobs and open the state Route 5 area to more development.
In fact, Piros said township trustees have entertained the idea of extending sewer lines farther north from Millennium Boulevard toward Cortland. Water lines could also be extended farther north from their end point near the Timber Creek residential development, he said. Both would help spur development.
A Wal-Mart official said last week construction is scheduled to begin around June for the 203,819-square-foot supercenter. Ron Mosby, Wal-Mart senior manager for public affairs, said the company will bid out the project in April or May, which would put completion at around March 2007.
The new store is expected to sell groceries and have a gas station, in addition to the services available at the existing store on the other side of state Route 82. Dan Fogleman, a spokesman for Wal-Mart, said the company expects to begin marketing the present Wal-Mart building, also on Elm Road, "as soon as this summer" to sell it.