By Dedra Cordle
A 1.5-mile stretch of the West Mound Street corridor is slated to be resurfaced next year. When the project is completed, new pavement markings will change the flow of traffic in order to improve safety for motorists, pedestrians, and bicyclists.
At the Greater Hilltop Area Commission meeting on May 2, city transportation planners and project consultants were in attendance to unveil the roadway improvement recommendations that came from an eight-month study to determine the best method to reduce vehicular congestion and risk to those who access the heavily traveled corridor.
According to transportation planner Emma Kogge and transportation technology planner Mae Thompson, the city’s division of traffic management is making a recommendation that the roughly 1.5-mile stretch of West Mound Street between Central and Wayne Avenues be reconfigured to accommodate the “road diet” method.
A road diet may sound scary, intimidating, or even downright confusing, said Thompson, but she added that the road diet is one of the simplest and most effective ways to improve safety for all roadway users.
“The Federal Highway Administration has found that (the road diet) does reduce crashes by 19 to 47 percent,” she said, noting that there have been 205 crashes reported on this section of roadway between 2019 and 2022.
What the road diet reconfiguration along this specific stretch of West Mound Street will do is remove two of the four travel lanes that currently exist and reallocate space in the center for a two-way left-turn lane. Additional space near the curb-lane has also been earmarked for bicyclists.
Thompson said it is their belief that the creation of the two-way left-turn lane would enhance the operations of the street and vastly improve the flow of traffic.
“If we are thinking about Hilltonia Middle School, for those people who are taking a left turn, it (the two-way left-turn lane) allows people to move out of the way of traffic so they can take that left whenever it is free.”
She said they believe that a two-way left-turn lane would also benefit the residents who live throughout the area.
Kogge and Thompson said the city also looked at two additional alternatives to improve safety and reduce the traffic congestion along West Mound Street between Central and Wayne Avenues.
The second alternative was to create a buffered bike lane that would allow distance between the vehicles and bicycles to create a more comfortable experience. Pedestrians would also have a bit more room to walk on the sidewalk. Thompson said the trade-off for the second alternative would be that traffic would continue to be paused so motorists could make the left turns.
The third alternative was the creation of a separated bike lane, which is very similar to a buffered bike lane. However, this alternative would have placed a physical barrier on the roadway to separate the bike lane from the traffic lane. Thompson said the trade-off for the third alternative would be it was in the second alternative, meaning that traffic would continue to be paused so motorists could make left turns.
Commissioner Leah Brudno asked if the city had looked into combining their preferred alternative (the road diet plan) with the third alternative so there could be some form of physical barrier to keep bicyclists safer from vehicles.
Kogge said that is something the city looked at but they made the determination that the road was not wide enough to accommodate both options. She said there are some portions of the road, such as the intersection with Central Avenue, where some type of physical barrier could be installed as the roadway widens out in that area.
The future installation of bump-outs, similar to the safety features that were recently placed on Sullivant Avenue, was also discussed during the study recommendation when commissioner James White said he would like to see them be placed on the roadway as a speed deterrent. Commissioner Josh Maddox said he would prefer that the city not install bump-outs on this portion of West Mound Street as he dislikes the fixtures so much that he goes out of his way to avoid traveling on Sullivant Avenue.
Kogge said the city did not intend to install bump-outs or a similar safety feature during this project as it is solely a resurfacing project with new pavement markings. She did note that a bump-out or a smaller median could be installed in the future should funding opportunities be made available.
She also shared traffic and crash data that showed a reduction of crashes by 51 percent and a speed reduction of eight miles per hour near the bump-outs and small medians on Sullivant Avenue. A resident in the audience said she would like to see any feature that would reduce the speeding that takes place on West Mound Street.
The city will accept public comment on the recommendation for the next month. The public can submit comments by visiting these websites: tinyurl.com/WMound or tinyurl.com/WMoundStudy. The latter web address is hosted by the city of Columbus and it has included a slideshow of the recommendations.
In other news, the GHAC government and legislation committee will meet for the first time this year on May 23 at 7 p.m., or immediately following the community relations committee which will be held at 6:30 p.m. On the agenda for the government and legislation committee is a redistricting discussion with a representative with the League of Women Voters of Metro Columbus. The committee will also be discussing the forthcoming election. Brudno said she encourages those interested in becoming a commissioner to attend this meeting. It will be held at The Design Refinery, 11 N. Westmoor Ave.