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Big changes ahead for West Broad Street?
After nearly a year of work, the Hilltop Mobilty Plan is getting close to completion, but not everyone is happy with the findings.
During a presentation at the Nov. 10 meeting of the Greater Hilltop Area Commission, Joshua Sikich of the Hilltop Community Mobility Plan Study Team presented the findings of the group.
The most significant changes to come out of the study involve a reduction in traffic lanes on West Broad Street and the addition of a bike path.
“We have received written comments from over 900 Hilltop residents,” said Sikich.
According to Sikich, the majority of responding residents say they want bike paths, and they want them on West Broad Street.
“They say it’s healthy, it’s cheap and they want to be able to bike to downtown,” he said.
Sikich revealed that West Broad Street from Hague to Central avenues is scheduled to be resurfaced in 2010.
“Most of the time, we make recommendations and they happen years later. These have the potential to be implemented next year,” he said.
Sikich explained the project, coordinated through the Ohio Department of Transportation (ODOT), will be 80 percent funded through federal funds.
“It’s a good cost saving measure. It would be beneficial for the city to try to tap into that,” he said.
For this reason, the Hilltop Mobility Plan is moving full speed ahead.
“We’ve worked with ODOT and we’ve looked at the traffic between Harris and Clarendon. Six lanes of traffic for the peak period is not necessary,” Sikich said, “We can cut it down to four.”
He explained in that area, it has been recommended the traffic pattern be changed to two west bound lanes, one east bound lane and one center two-way turn lane. This leaves room for all day parking on both sides of the street, or parking on one side with a bike path on the other.
“So far, we are going to recommend that the bike lane be placed on the north side of the street with parking on the south,” said Sikich.
He explained that a bike path on the south side of the street would interfere with COTA stops and slow the single line of traffic in that direction.
He added bike paths have been proven to draw in business and elevate home valuations.
Sikich referred to parking as “a means to an end,” saying the outcome “may not be as much as a given as you would think.”
“Businesses with on street parking may lie vacant for years to come, but if you lay a bike path down, you’ll have bikers next year,” he said.
Many commissioners did not support the elimination of parking on the north side of the street.
“Bike lanes would be good, but I don’t think it would be good for economic development,” said commissioner and Hilltop Business Association member Karen Whitman.
Commissioner Dave Horn echoed Whitman’s concerns, pointing out that parking on West Broad Street is already a big concern between Eureka and Wayne avenues.
“The parking facility behind Eureka and Oakley is inadequate,” said Horn.
“What about deliveries?” he asked.
“I’m afraid that if business owners in that area find out that you’re going to take away their parking, they’re going to move their businesses,” said Horn.
“It sounds nice and it feels good, but when you look at it, you’re not serving the businesses on the north side of Broad Street,” said Horn. “There are a lot of good things people do that really effect businesses in a negative way.”
“I think what we’re offering is what people want,” said Sikich, who said he had spoken to many residents but had not questioned business owners.
“I think you need to speak to those business owners on the north side of Broad Street. Tell them you’re taking their parking away and see what they say,” said Horn.
GHAC chair Chuck Patterson recommended that another public meeting be held on the matter, but Sikich was against the idea, saying that the time for planning was wrapping up and he has already obtained a large amount of public comment.
Terry Stewart of the Columbus Department of Public Service explained the team would return to the commission next month, where he hoped they would approve the final recommendations.
“If you don’t come to a consensus, you’re just going to end up with the six lanes you’ve got,” said Stewart, adding that while West Broad Street is not the only street involved in the mobility plan, it is the pressing matter due to the upcoming resurfacing project.
For information on the Hilltop Mobilty Plan, visit www.hilltopmobility.com.
The next meeting of the Greater Hilltop Area Commission is Dec. 1 at 7 p.m., at the Hilltop Branch of the Columbus Metropolitan Library.
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