Despite objections by West Columbus Street residents, Canal Winchester Village Council voted to move ahead with the street’s reconstruction.
Concerns voiced by residents during a January meeting, and on Feb. 4, focused on: a perceived lack of communication between village staff and residents, lane width, traffic count, and a decrease in the size of the tree lawn.
"This is the third time I’m back on the Columbus Street project," said resident Mike Vasko. "The problem with the whole thing is the process. Your staff spent two years working on the project. They unveiled the design on Dec. 12 and then sent it out to bid five days later. When did the public have the opportunity to comment? You didn’t get their input until it didn’t matter. You sacrificed the character and integrity of Columbus Street for a few bucks and some speed. You say we can’t wait. Why not? What’s the rush to build it now? It could be in better shape, but it’s certainly not the worst street in the village. We need a street improvement, but not this improvement."
Public Works Director Matt Peoples said the project schedule was set up when the village sent in its application to the state in 2006. He emphasized the project was not bid out five days after the December meeting, but on Jan. 9 and 16.
Finance Director Nanisa Osborn said the village could cancel the project, but it would take at least five years before they could start all over in addition to being penalized by the state on future projects.
Carol DaGrasso said she lives at the dead end of the street and, until the new middle school opened on Lithopolis Road, watched hundreds of cars cycle through her area. Instead of the sounds of traffic, DaGrasso said she is now struck by the sounds of silence.
"In my observations of traffic, it’s quiet and I don’t see the need to degrade the integrity of the neighborhood," said DaGrasso.
EMH&T engineer Steve Farst said the traffic count was conducted in 2005 and updated in 2006 and the village was required to design the program based on what they observed. Even though the school is not generating as much traffic now as it did two years ago, repurposing of the historic structure has not been fully determined and Farst stated it would be irresponsible to design travel lanes without consideration for the future.
"We also look at other considerations," said Farst. "Traffic counts are important, but there are also other minimum considerations. The travel lane on the roadway is 21 feet. I think there was a good balance in their project to determine the tree lawn. We’re talking about a public right-of-way and a public street."
Resident Paul Bender thanked the village staff for their efforts in trying to reach a compromise and said by no means were his previous comments intended to undercut their work. However, he felt something went wrong in the process and residents were uninformed. He also felt traffic count numbers were higher than actual numbers.
Even though Bender said there were problems in communications, he was happy to hear about alternatives under consideration by village planners including increasing the tree lawn to five feet, decreasing parking spaces to seven and a half feet, and reducing the size of the sidewalk to four feet.
Speaking in favor of the endeavor, Joe Abbott said, "I’m for the project. It seems like the village is trying to compromise. I bought my house a year ago and knew this was coming. I hate to see the project put on delay. I also agree with the historical value of the homes and street and that’s why I bought the house."