By JOY BROWN
Findlay has been awarded a $2.4 million grant from the Ohio Department of Transportation to improve downtown safety, walkability, bicycle accessibility and aesthetics.
The funds will be used to enhance Main and Cory streets, which will factor into a larger downtown improvement plan estimated to cost about $7 million.
City officials said they expect the bulk of the construction to start in 2017.
On Main Street, from Center to Lima streets, curb bump-outs will be installed at pedestrian crossings, along with mid-block crosswalks and pedestrian islands, and new medians at the north and south ends of the downtown area.
Resurfacing Main Street from Lima to Center streets, which the state has planned for some time, will be incorporated.
On Cory Street, one lane will be set aside for bike traffic, at least from West Main Cross Street to the University of Findlay. Consideration is being given to extending that path south to Lima Street.
More bicycle accommodations are expected to be provided along the downtown RiverWalk, just south of the Blanchard River bridge. Mayor Lydia Mihalik said a connecting bike path meandering along the Blanchard River’s south side to Cory Street is in the works.
Part of a $5 million pledge from Marathon Petroleum Corp. will be used to pay Findlay’s required 20 percent matching share of the state grant. The remaining amount from Marathon will likely be leveraged with other funding to pay for intersection improvements that officials would like along Sandusky Street at Western Avenue, East Street and Blanchard Street.
The Findlay-Hancock County Alliance will convene its economic revitalization committee to develop beautification concepts that will go along with the master plan for downtown.
Mihalik said the reverse-angled parking idea for Main Street, introduced this spring before the city applied for the grant, remains off the table. Many citizens opposed the concept.
However, downtown parking issues that have been discussed for years will continue to be taken into account as the downtown planning process moves forward, Mihalik said.
Service-Safety Director Paul Schmelzer said planning, featuring more public input sessions and state collaboration, will happen in 2015. Phased construction on Main and Cory streets is likely to start at the beginning of 2017.
Daniel Kaseman, the Department of Transportation’s District 1 planning and engineering administrator, said Main Street repaving from Center Street south to Lima Street is expected to happen in 2016, but resurfacing of Main from Center Street north to Trenton Avenue may happen as early as next year.
Findlay’s $2.4 million Transportation Alternatives Plan grant, which is the full amount the city applied for, was the second-highest amount the state provided during this round of funding, Kaseman said.
The department received 28 grant applications that totaled $19 million. Kaseman said $9.7 million was awarded to 12 projects.
Findlay’s application was well-written, and included proposed features that met the competitive grant’s strict qualifications, Kaseman said. “It scored very well” with the transportation department’s independent team that reviews the applications and determines the awards, he said.
Proposals included in Findlay’s application were influenced and adapted from business, government and public input received this spring. Officials heard opinions on ideas, some of which were controversial, such as reducing Main Street to one lane each way and installing reverse-angle parking on both sides.
The city’s next step is to “get a designer on board and figure out the scoping with ODOT to determine exactly what will be built, and to set the course of final design,” Schmelzer said.