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It's always sunnier in Akron: where road diets are legal

Marc Lefkowitz  |  06/08/15 @ 12:00pm  |  Posted in Vibrant cities, Transportation choices

There’s a Cleveland folktale that it’s always sunnier in Akron. We like to believe that the micro-climate along the lake affects everything from cloud cover to lake effect snow to our sub-culture. Is it possible the confluence of lake and river affect as much the geography of space and mindset?

Legalize it<br />The road diet that the city of Lakewood is boldly proposing for safety and vibrancy reasons on Madison Avenue.<br />The current stretch of Madison Avenue in Lakewood, OH.

When two amazingly dissimilar documents came across our desk last week from Akron and the Cleveland area, we started to wonder.

First, The Akron Metropolitan Area Transportation Study (AMATs) produced an amazing report, a “Road Diet Analysis.” Not only does it explain what to do with excessively wide roads (reclaim space for community uses), it also lists the top 60 roads in Akron with excess capacity and which the transportation agency says are ripe for a slimming.

“A road diet offers several high-value improvements at a low cost when applied to traditional four-lane undivided highways,” the report explains. “In addition to low cost, the primary benefits of a road diet include enhanced safety, mobility and access for all road users and a complete streets environment to accommodate a variety of transportation modes.”

The report talks about road diets already completed, including Copley Road, a fast-moving four laner that was slimmed down to three lanes plus bike lanes.

The report also refers to a recently started Better Block project in Akron. Better Block’s founder Jason Roberts was invited by AMATs and the Knight Foundation to lead a project in the city’s North Hill area that combines a road diet with a pop up block of re-purposed space.

AMATS also identifies the top ten candidates for road diets. They share common traits. Fast-moving, mostly four-lane roads that see an average daily traffic of 5,366 vehicles between them.

In 2014, the U.S. Department of Transportation supported the practice of road diets where average daily traffic (ADT) is below 15,000 vehicles.

Safety—eliminating bad behavior like weaving between lanes and sideswipe crashes that happen on four lane roads—is cited by AMATs.

The Akron report also points to a road diet on Madison Avenue in Lakewood. An interesting choice considering how the city of Lakewood stuck its neck out on Madison. Speaking to city officials there about the Madison Avenue road diet, they expressed reservations about not having the approval of their District 12 Ohio Department of Transportation.

While unclear if Akron has a different conversation going with the officials at its District 4 Department of Transportation office, the story on Madison and why its being re-striped as a road diet (a year) after it will be repaved is because the city is doing it against the wishes of ODOT 12. A document from ODOT 12 which surfaced last week provides further evidence that the Cleveland area’s office put local communities on warning that road diets would likely not be tolerated.

The District 12 office clarified its position on complete streets and road diets. They consider FHWA’s guidance on road diets less important than their own. The guidance states that a project like Madison—or one of the dozens of Transportation for Livable Communities Initiative (TLCI) projects that are seeking to do road diet on state or federal routes in the Cleveland area—will have to apply for but shouldn't expect a variance for reducing lane widths. TLCI is a program of NOACA and has provided tens of millions of dollars for studies that intend to expand transportation options.

Speaking to one local planning official about the juxtaposition of the AMATs and ODOT 12 reports, he commented:

“This should be an inspiration to NOACA to persuade District 12 to stop stifling a city’s desire to help pedestrians and bicyclists.”

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Ben Van Lear
2 years ago

"This should be an inspiration to NOACA to persuade District 12 to stop stifling a city's desire to help pedestrians and bicyclists."

Amen! Why should ODOT lane width requirements restrict access to federal money when the ODOT requirements are more strict than the federal?

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