Hilltop may see mobility improvements

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A hot topic around Columbus this summer is sidewalks and pedestrian safety, and the Hilltop area isn’t one to be left behind.

Terry Stewart, a representative from the City of Columbus Transportation Division, visited the Greater Hilltop Area Commission on Sept. 4 to discuss a possible method for getting effective changes to the area.

Stewart explained that until recently, when a call was made to the City of Columbus to complain of reckless driving or speeding vehicles in a certain area of town, that problem was often remedied with a traffic calming element, such as speed humps.

According to Stewart, this is simply “chasing the problem” because residents from neighboring streets call in to report the undesirable traffic has relocated to their street.

In an attempt to find a larger scale solution, the City of Columbus Department of Transportation has identified 25 “traffic communities.”

These communities will each be able to receive assistance from the transportation department in the form of a Community Mobility Plan.

This is a plan that looks at the needs of pedestrians and drivers, and finds long term solutions for the problems of both. They address speeds of vehicles, as well as pedestrian needs such as crosswalks, sidewalks and bicyclist needs.

“It is our goal to make this a walkable community for everyone,” said Stewart. “Then you won’t need a motorized vehicle. You can feel safe to walk down the street, even if you are young, disabled, or whatever.”

The first step in this plan would be to hold a community meeting where the transportation department would be seeking input and ideas from residents. Next, they would hold an opening workshop, followed by a walk audit. During the audit, representatives from the transportation department would walk many areas of the Hilltop and assess what areas are problems.

This would be followed up by a closing workshop, then a drafted plan, and finally, a published plan.

Since the Columbus Department of Transportation has halted all installation of traffic calming devices in response to complaints, the funds generally used for that are now being funnelled into putting Community Mobility Plans into action.

“Once the plan is published, I would imagine that there would be some funds available immediately to begin some of the work,” said Stewart.

Plans could include a variety of solutions  at a wide range of costs, including signs, pavement marking, pedestrian refuge islands, speed tables, roundabouts and sidewalks.

The Hilltop area would be the third neighborhood to take advantage of this process. The first was the Linden area, and Franklinton is in the process now.

The first step of the process is expected to begin sometime next year.

In order for the Hilltop to have the chance to participate in this program, however, they are required to locate an organization outside of the Greater Hilltop Area Commission to maintain the landscape maintenance brought about by the project.

This organization would need to sign documents naming themselves as the responsible party for the area and may even be required to sign a liability insurance clause.

“The city cannot take on any other landscape maintenance."

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