Tallmadge -- Plans to create an "outer loop" to alleviate an expected increase in traffic congestion at the Circle have been nixed.
Mayor Dave Kline said city officials were working with the Ohio Department of Transportation on a project that would have given motorists an alternate traffic route to the Circle, but the city decided not to pursue it because it's not worth the money.
Although Howe, Britain, Eastwood and Munroe roads already make up a secondary traffic route that somewhat relieves congestion, Kline said the city was thinking about how to further ease it and increase motorist safety, as 45,000 vehicles drive around the Circle, on average, each day.
The project would've alleviated some of the congestion, but Kline said the improvement wouldn't be significant enough to justify the estimated $30 million price tag. He said ODOT officially rated the Circle's safety at an "F-," and the "outer loop" project was expected to improve it to an "F."
"That outer loop would be so cost prohibitive that I think it's almost undoable," Kline said. "I think you're spending $30 million to try to have people stay away from the Circle."
If the city had moved forward with the project, ODOT would pay 80 percent of the cost, and the city would be responsible for the balance.
Kline said the city first chose to explore the project because it was in line with the historic value of the Circle.
He said some options, such as building a bridge over the Circle or creating a cul-de-sac at the end of one of the spokes, would affect that historic value.
Implemented in phases over five or so years, the "outer loop" would've created a complete alternate traffic route around the Circle with new roads that would connect existing roads.
The Circle also would've been widened and striped with paint to convert it from a one-lane roadway to three lanes. Public Service Director Bryan Esler said the traffic pattern would've been similar to that of the roundabout at the intersection of Howe Road, Munroe Road and Northeast Avenue in that motorists would've been permitted to drive in the outermost lane for two exits before being required to exit. Some spoke roads would've had two entry and exit lanes, and others would've had two for entering and one for exiting.
The city was interested in the project because ODOT studies show by 2035, traffic congestion at the Circle will worsen because of expanding development and business growth in the area.
The city has tried to alleviate congestion at the intersection by eliminating some of the secondary ingress/egress points, such as driveways for businesses, but figuring out how to continue to improve it has been difficult, Kline said.
"It's just a tough nut to crack," he said.
The city also had considered officially making the Circle a two-lane highway, but Kline said that option isn't ideal because more vehicle accidents may happen as motorists in the inner lane try to exit to a spoke road.
He said the city continues to look for ideas to improve the intersection.
AMATS recently ranked the Circle as the worst intersection in Summit County for vehicle crashes when 284 crashes happened there between 2010-12. Police Chief Don Zesiger said most of the reported accidents were minor fender benders.
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