By JOY BROWN
Findlay Mayor Lydia Mihalik hosted a live question-and-answer session about the proposed downtown traffic plan Thursday on Facebook.
“I thought that there needed to be answers to some of the questions being posed to me and to some of the council members that haven’t been answered yet,” Mihalik said.
She said she “wanted to get out ahead of the public meeting” scheduled on Wednesday at the Findlay Inn & Conference Center.
That meeting will start at 4:30 p.m., with presentations at 4:45 p.m. and 5:30 p.m. Stations will also be set up for more details from engineers, city officials and others who have been developing the plan.
On Thursday, Mihalik and Councilman-At-Large Grant Russel met at Mihalik’s office to answer questions for an hour on Facebook.
“I thought it went well,” the mayor said afterward. “I felt the questions were good.”
She said she’d like to have another live session following Wednesday’s meeting.
Some participants Thursday seemed pleased with the traffic proposals and answers that city officials provided.
“Dozens of new prime parking spaces make me more likely to visit downtown, especially if the trajectory continues with more and more desirable restaurants, bars and stores bringing more people in. The increased calm and beauty from a design like this wouldn’t hurt either,” Josh Woodward posted.
“I went through downtown Bowling Green’s revitalization a few years back. It was frustrating during, but the outcome was absolutely amazing!” posted Jen Fulton.
But many remained skeptical.
“So because drivers are running red lights, not looking before turning, and pedestrians aren’t obeying the crosswalk signals, we all have to suffer having our downtown driving screwed up?” Matt Conley posted.
“This plan is a horrible idea and will only cause more congestion downtown,” posted Sara Hollis Wadding. “It will be a good way to get people to avoid going downtown including driving through or visiting the shops and restaurants. I for one will not sit in a traffic jam.”
“Not impressed with what I see,” Cindi Heffner posted.
Here is a condensed, edited version of questions and answers from Thursday:
Q. How will parades be managed on Main Street?
A. There is no reason that parades cannot continue downtown as they already do.
Q. Will the plan hinder emergency vehicle access?
A. Emergency vehicles will still need to maneuver, even in mid-block. Our emergency personnel will respond in the same way they do on Tiffin Avenue at Christmastime.
Q. How will traffic be able to move if a delivery truck is double-parked?
A. Trucks will not be double-parked downtown. They will utilize the alleys for deliveries or they will deliver during non-peak times when spaces are available … They will not be allowed to block traffic.
In response, Matthew Schull posted: “They aren’t going to wait until non-peak times. They deliver on their schedule.”
Q. Where is one example where reverse-angle parking is working?
Q. Why can’t we just build parking lots or garages on empty lots where buildings have been torn down?
A. We want the empty lots to be redeveloped because it improves the economic condition of the City of Findlay. Parking lots are very expensive to develop and do not generate revenue.
Q. Traffic downtown is already a nightmare at several times during the day. Turning left at places where there isn’t a turn arrow is nearly impossible. How is it a good idea to congest traffic even more? There seems to be no real plan for how any of this will actually work.
A. Come to the meeting on March 12 at 4:30 p.m. at the Findlay Inn where traffic engineers will be available to discuss the data they’ve been collecting and analyzing for the last six months.
Q. Why can’t this money be used to fix the flooding?
A. The funding is for transportation alternatives and safety improvements.
Q. My main concern is traffic, of course. Main Street is an absolute nightmare at multiple times a day now with four lanes. What’s going to happen when that’s cut in half? I know I’m only one person, but I will definitely avoid Main Street when the change is done.
A. Our traffic engineers have studied the existing traffic flow and have accounted for growth over the next 20 years and we feel the level of service for Main Street will be adequate.
Q. If there’s not going to be grass in the median … could it be paved so that emergency vehicles could get through? This would eliminate one of the main objections here.
A. All alternatives are being considered at this time. It’s doubtful there will be grass in a median. Landscaping, etc., is merely conceptual. Maintenance will be handled in a similar fashion to the way it is now.
Q. Is it a possibility to widen Western Avenue between Lima Avenue and Main Cross Street and take out the four-way stop at Sandusky Street and put in a light?
A. Intersection upgrades are being considered at Western and Sandusky.
Q. Can you publish on the city’s website the plan for roadway improvements and projected costs?
A. The plan is not finalized. Please join us March 12 at 4:30 p.m. at the Findlay Inn to provide input and learn more about the costs associated with this project.
Q. But won’t the added congestion and added time to people’s trips trying to get across town hurt the businesses that are already there?
A. The reaction from downtown businesses is positive. Downtown will be a place people want to visit. Increased parking and safety are viewed as a win.
Q. I am not opposed to the Main Street plan but I am opposed to something that will prevent us from paying for current needs before expanding the list of needs to include new boulevards and greenery.
A. This project is not limiting or prohibiting us from executing our current capital plan. Road and street maintenance is still a priority and will be addressed.
Q. Under your statistics, how do you feel this will improve traffic flow?
A. Traffic is not going to move faster. That’s how we will improve safety. We are considering alternative corridors for those who are just passing through as opposed to making downtown their destination.
Safety is the primary reason we are evaluating this project. We have two of the most unsafe intersections in northwest Ohio in our downtown, which is what is driving the changes.
One look at the traffic data and the accident reports indicates that we wouldn’t be doing our duty if we weren’t addressing the issues. And without putting added pressure on our current capital plan expenditures, we felt that pursuing the funding options was prudent at this time.
Q. Will the general fund be paying for this?
A. There are multiple sources of funding that are being sought for this project. They include ODOT Transportation Alternatives Program, ODOT Safety Funding, among other Ohio funds, and the $5 million generous donation from Marathon Petroleum Corp. It is the goal to have as little impact on the capital improvement fund as possible.
Q. Any thought as to moving forward with moving trucks over the Martin Luther King Jr. bridge so they don’t have to go downtown? That might help alleviate some congestion.
A. We are in discussions with ODOT as well as local trucking companies to further the conversation.
Q. At this point does the public’s opinion really matter if it is against this plan?
A. Yes, the public’s opinion matters. We want to hear all comments.
Q. How will snow be removed?
A. Snow removal will be handled much like it was this past winter. Strategies vary greatly depending on the snow event.
In response, Niki Landon Sidle posted: “The snow will be piled to the edge and we will have to stumble over it, just like now. I nearly fell trying to get from my car, over the snow pile, and into the post office this week.”
Q. With only one lane going each direction, will truck traffic turning be a problem?
A. Truck traffic will not be restricted by the turning radius. Local deliveries will still be allowed.