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Public can discuss $26 million project

YOUNGSTOWN — An open house to take public comments on $26 million in road projects — which includes a $10.85 million federal grant — to make major improvements to downtown is set for Sept. 26.

Over a three-year period, starting in spring 2020, work will be done to Fifth, Park and Rayen avenues as well as Commerce, Federal, Front and Phelps streets, said Charles Shasho, the city’s deputy director of public works. The projects include repaving, reducing lanes on some of the streets, multi-use paths, new and repaired sidewalks, improved lighting, new traffic signals, landscaping and at its conclusion an autonomous bus service.

“We can’t have every street ripped up downtown at the same time so we have to stagger the projects,” Shasho said.

The open house will be from 4 to 7 p.m. at the offices of Eastgate Regional Council of Governments, 100 E. Federal St., Suite 1000.

There won’t be a formal presentation, but officials from Eastgate, the city and the GPD Group, the consultant on the projects, will answer questions and display recommended improvements.

“This is one of the most transformational projects I’ve been involved in during my 20 years with the city,” Shasho said.

The city doesn’t plan to close streets to vehicular traffic during construction, but delays likely will be an issue, he said.

“People are going to need patience over the next few years, but the work is going to be a legacy for downtown,” Shasho said. “The hope is it will continue to spur economic development.”

The city and its partners announced Dec. 6, 2018, that they received a $10.85 million federal BUILD (Better Utilizing Investments to Leverage Development) grant for its SMART2 Network (Strategic and Sustainable, Medical and Manufacturing, Academic and Arts, Residential and Recreational, and Technology and Training). The rest of the money comes from other federal and state funds as well as money and in-kind services from the city, Youngstown State University, Mercy Health-Youngstown and the Western Reserve Transit Authority, Shasho said.

Construction will start in spring 2020 on the first project: a $5 million to $6 million improvement to Fifth Avenue between West Federal Street and Eastbound Service Road, largely where a $1.5 million waterline project has snarled traffic for months. That waterline project should be finished by the end of this month, Shasho said.

The 2020 project includes reducing the number of lanes on Fifth Avenue from two to three in each direction to one in each direction with turning lanes in several locations, he said. There will also be some landscaped medians, particularly around YSU. Also, there will be new lighting and traffic signals, and a multi-use path for bicyclists and walkers, Shasho said.

The city wants to get the Fifth Avenue project done before YSU students return for the fall 2020 semester, he said.

The city may also do the Park Avenue work around the same time as Fifth Avenue as it’s relatively small with paving, new sidewalks, curbs and lighting done from Fifth Avenue to St. Elizabeth Youngstown Hospital, Shasho said.

The next significant project is Front Street from Vindicator Square to South Avenue that will be start in spring 2021 and be done that fall, he said.

That work — which fronts the city-owned Covelli Centre, Youngstown Foundation Amphitheatre and City Hall Annex — includes paving, new lighting, streetscaping, adding a multi-use path, and eliminating some traffic lights. It will also reduce what is now two to three lanes in each direction to one in each direction with a turning lane, Shasho said.

Before that work commences, he said, the water department will replace waterlines on the street next year.

Phelps Street between Federal and Front streets will also be done in 2021. That work includes repaving the road as well as improving lighting and widening and upgrading the sidewalk.

The city is turning a section of Phelps between West Federal and West Commerce streets, north of the 2021 project location, into a pedestrian mall by July 2020. By widening and increasing the sidewalk on the section between Federal and Front streets, Shasho said, it will be easier for people to walk from downtown to the amphitheater and the 22-acre park the city recently built by the Mahoning River.

Work on Federal Street from Fifth Avenue to at least Market Street, and possibly further, will start in 2022, Shasho said.

That project includes paving, improved lighting, widening the sidewalk and possibly eliminating diagonal parking spots and replacing them with parallel parking spots, he said. Many of the spots on the far west end are parallel, but overall, most o f the parking on that street is diagonal.

“We really want to get the public’s input on parking” on Federal Street, Shasho said.

Work on sections of Commerce Street and Rayen Avenue hasn’t been scheduled, but will likely be done in 2022, he said.

Those projects are smaller than the others and include repaving, rehabilitating the sidewalks and curbs, and adding lighting, Shasho said.

The Commerce project is between Fifth and South avenues. The Rayen work is between Fifth Avenue and Walnut Street.

Other downtown work includes electric vehicle charging stations and Uber dropoff points, but the details need to be ironed out, Shasho said.