Study paves way for Belmont changes
A study of the Belmont Avenue corridor in Youngstown and Liberty calls for numerous changes to one of the Mahoning Valley’s busiest areas.
“The issues identified in the corridor were transportation, revitalization and economic development,” the study from the Eastgate Regional Council of Governments reads.
The study includes 4.66 miles of Belmont Avenue from West Federal Street in Youngstown to Excellence Drive, just north of Churchill Road, in Liberty.
The study’s goals were increasing accessibility to the existing transportation network and emphasizing multi-modal transportation options, supporting ongoing and future economic development that will contribute to a vibrant community, and finding solutions for transportation issues along the corridor.
Among the study’s most significant recommendations were removing the Madison Avenue Expressway; adding and increasing transit service along the corridor; installing sidewalks on both sides of Gypsy Lane between Belmont and Logan avenues; and changing the zoning between Gypsy Lane and Catherine Street from commercial to mixed-used to encourage development.
Youngstown and Liberty officials said the study will significantly help the communities.
“It’s a great first step,” said Youngstown Councilwoman Samantha Turner, D-3rd Ward, who represents the North Side and most of the Belmont Avenue corridor. “The recommendations in terms of transportation are very sound. Getting to the main corridors are hard because there aren’t a lot of sidewalks.”
Turner said she particularly liked the recommendations about removing the Madison Avenue Expressway and the sidewalks on Gypsy Lane.
“Getting the sidewalks from the neighborhoods to the shopping areas is vital to the growth of the corridor,” she said. “We need to make it safe and secure for people to walk down the street or ride their bicycles.”
Regarding the removal of the expressway, the report reads: “This long-term and likely expensive effort would serve to reconnect the neighborhoods that it has severed. The project should focus on the conversion from a large four-lane divided highway to a three- or four-lane surface street.”
“It’s always been troublesome with a lot of accidents and it cuts the neighborhood off,” Turner said of the expressway. “To clean up and connect each side of town would be beneficial.”
Liberty Township Trustee Arnie Clebone said the study “is a good framework. It talks about the upgrade of the road. We need to make it attractive as it’s the entryway for not just Liberty, but for the entire area.”
With the study done, the township and Youngstown can pursue federal funding for some of the work, he said.
“We can also look at joint economic (development) districts with Girard and Youngstown,” Clebone said. “The study is a good starting point. It puts us on the map as an important corridor.”
Changing the look of the corridor is a long-term project, he said.
“It could be several years,” Clebone said. “We have a long way to go in making changes, but we need to improve the perception of Belmont Avenue. What that avenue looks like is important to the area.”
The region needs to think about its long-term strategy for places such as the Belmont Avenue corridor, Turner said.
“Our decisions must consider what happens 20, 30 years from now,” she said.
The study took a year to complete.
It suggests increased road lighting between Churchill Hubbard and Naylor Lloyd roads and increased traffic enforcement to reduce the number of vehicular crashes between those two roads.
It also proposes changing commercial zoning on Belmont between Gypsy Lane and Catherine Street to mixed-use development and developing a large-scale streetscape project there.
The study proposes reducing the speed from 40 mph between Hazelwood Drive and Laurel Street in Liberty.
In Youngstown, other suggestions in the study are around St. Elizabeth Youngstown Hospital such as installing pedestrian crossing infrastructure, continuing to focus on senior residential housing and having the hospital partner with the Western Reserve Transit Authority to develop a community plan to get hospital staff to use public transportation.
In the city’s Brier Hill section, the study recommends a bike trail connection along Burlington Street and improving a pedestrian connection to Tod Homestead Cemetery.