Concepts offer ways to update Route 224

An open house is set for 6 to 8 p.m. Wednesday at the Boardman Government Center.
BOARDMAN -- After more than a year of study, consultants, with the help of community members, have devised four conceptual alternatives for one of the Mahoning Valley's busiest thoroughfares.
The $1 million study of U.S. Route 224 by URS Consultants of Akron, funded by Ohio Department of Transportation and Eastgate Regional Council of Governments, started in November 2004. It focused on the six-mile stretch between Interstate 680 and state Route 11.
The alternatives are "to address safety concerns related to traffic and congestion," said Paula Putnam, a spokeswoman for ODOT District 4.
The alternatives may be viewed during an open house from 6 to 8 p.m. Wednesday in the Boardman Government Center, Market Street. Putnam said staff from ODOT, the consulting firm and Eastgate will be available during the session to answer questions.
People also will be asked to provide their input on the alternatives, explaining what they like or don't like about them and identifying potential problems.
"Definitely, their voice counts," Putnam said.
Bill Barlow, program manager at Eastgate, said he hopes that people get excited to see that there are possible solutions.
"When we first started this, a lot of people just said, 'There's nothing you can do,'" he said.
Kathleen Rodi, Eastgate transportation director, said that each alternative is an individual and can "move and proceed independent of one another."
The alternatives include roads that snake behind Route 224 businesses, feeding into rear parking lots, restructuring of off- and on-ramps of Interstate 680, and an underpass at the Route 224-Market Street intersection.
The concepts are just that, Barlow said, explaining that no alternative has been identified. The ultimate solution chosen could be a combination of various elements contained in each concept, both Barlow and Rodi said.
"There's no silver bullet for this," Barlow said. "It needs to be a package of alternatives."
The study involved participation from three groups that provided input about U.S. 224 problems and suggested solutions. Those groups included representatives of government, business and citizens.
Township Trustee Kathy Miller, who led the citizens group, urged people to attend so that their input is considered in any decisions.
Her group's meetings sometimes drew up to 40 people, many of whom live near the busy Route 224 corridor.
Study goals included reducing congestion, improving safety, preserving the corridor's economic viability, reducing vehicle use within the corridor, educating drivers and making the corridor environmentally friendly.
What data showed
Data collected for the study found nearly 1,900 crashes in that six-mile stretch between 2002 and 2004, most of which were rear-end crashes. That same data also ranked several intersections along the corridor at or near a failing grade.
The grades are based on information such as the average seconds of delay, the amount of traffic, the number of lanes and left- and right-lane turn restrictions.
Although a solution won't happen for several years, Rodi pointed to two improvements already in the works aimed at providing relief. Those projects both came out of a safety study conducted a few years ago.
One project is to widen Route 224 between the Shops at Boardman Park and Interstate 680 to include dedicated right-turn lanes, paved shoulders and reconstructed driveway approaches.
It also includes construction of dual left turn lanes on U.S. 224 at South Avenue and upgrades to traffic signals. The contract for the project is expected to be awarded in October, and the work take about a year to complete.
The other project will widen the Route 224-Tippecanoe Road-Lockwood Boulevard intersection, with two sets of dual left-turn lanes at Lockwood and widening of Tippecanoe to add a right-turn lane.
That project is to be awarded in April 2007 and take about a year to complete.

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