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Wadsworth plans for public transit

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WADSWORTH — The city is looking at paving the way for more public transportation, bike trails and parking in Wadsworth.

The city has scheduled a public hearing for next month on a three-pronged transportation plan the Planning Commission approved Aug. 9. The hearing on the Wadsworth Multi-Modal Transportation Plan will be at 7:30 p.m. Sept. 7 at City Hall, 120 Maple St.

While the overall cost of the transportation plan has yet to be determined, the city plans to apply for funding from a number of sources, including the Ohio Environmental Protection Agency, Ohio Public Works Commission and the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development.

Devising the plan itself was largely funded by 2008 Transportation for Livable Communities grant through the Northeast Ohio Area-wide Coordinating Agency, which handles transportation and environmental planning for five counties: Medina, Cuyahoga, Lake, Lorain and Geauga.

“Like any other grant, we may have to go up against other competitive communities, so a key component is to have a conceptual plan in place so we can say, ‘We’re applying for funds to build what the plan suggests,’ ” Planning Director Jeff Kaiser said.

While a steering committee made up of city officials, organizations and residents alike prepared the plan, Kaiser said it was created at the behest of residents looking to improve the city’s access to public transportation and improve the appearance of the downtown area.

“This was really driven by citizens looking at ways to beautify the downtown area; but on the other hand, also address transportation issues for a segment of the population that doesn’t have good access to automobiles or can’t get around, and what can be done to make accessibility easier for them,” he said.

Public transportation

The public transportation portion concludes that, due to low population density, it would be inefficient for the city to start its own public transportation service. Instead, it should look to expand services from existing providers.

“We need to coordinate with existing providers to see what can be done to enhance existing services because the city should not take it upon itself to provide a separate transit service,” Kaiser said.

The city could expand services provided by Medina County Public Transportation, a curbside rural transportation system that provides trips from Medina to Wadsworth from 6 a.m. to 6 p.m. by reservation.

The city also could look at Akron METRO, which provides bus service in Summit County. Kaiser said Wadsworth’s population is included in Akron METRO’s federal funding allocation, and it receives $200,000 annually to serve the Wadsworth population, Kaiser said, but it doesn’t provide service.

Dean Harris, director of finance for Akron METRO, explained though Wadsworth is part of the Akron urban area, there are no plans to expand into Medina County for funding reasons, one being that Akron METRO also is funded by Summit County residents.

“If Akron METRO were to expand into Wadsworth, I believe it would require an agreement between the two counties,” Harris said.

Because the 2010 census may result in a revised designation of urban areas, it could be more efficient for Wadsworth to concentrate on enhancements through Medina County Public Transit in the short term until results of the census are known, the city’s transportation plan says.

Multi-purpose trails

The transportation plan includes a blueprint for a citywide system of bike lanes and routes and multi-purpose trails.

“It gives examples of how lanes can be incorporated on existing streets and off of them,” Kaiser said. “If it’s on a street, we might want to create some differentiation, whether it is brick or pavement, for example.”

The Bicycle and Trail Master Plan suggests four key routes in the city: an inner city loop, outer city loop, regional bicycle connectors and regional multi-purpose trail connectors.

The inner city loop would provide connections for cyclists to parks, neighborhoods and schools using residential and park streets as shared roadways where the traffic is slower. The loop would be ideal for basic and intermediate bike riders.

The outer city loop also would share roadways to provide connections to other community destinations, such as commercial areas near Interstate 76. Due to high traffic volume, the route would require an expanded shoulder to incorporate bike lanes.

The regional bicycle connectors would establish connections to regional destinations such as Medina, Rittman and Lodi.

The regional multi-purpose trail connectors would use the existing interurban rail line as a multi-purpose trail to connect Wadsworth’s downtown corridor to Barberton and Silver Creek Park in Summit County. The interurban begins at Mills and Main streets and travels east to the county line toward Barberton. The multi-purpose trail could also turn north before South Medina Line Road toward the Hinckley Reservation in Hinckley Township.

Downtown parking

The third component of the transportation plan covers parking and suggests strategies for improving the city-owned parking lot at Mills Street and Watrusa Avenue.

“What this looks at is how to make the area more attractive and open up the backs of buildings so that instead of looking at an old parking lot we can provide something else, like a place to sit and interact,” Kaiser said.

The lot is barely used, he said, because entrances for pedestrians and vehicles are not clearly marked. It also blocks the backs of many businesses.

In April 2008, it was estimated the 57-space lot cost the city $190,000. The city is considering a bus stop and providing pedestrian walkways. A gazebo reflecting the one in downtown Wadsworth would be added, which would be dotted with benches for pedestrians.

The plan includes creating new storefronts at the rear entrances of the existing buildings, which could use the space for an outdoor dining or gathering area.

Contact Lisa Hlavinka at (330) 721-4048 or lhlavinka@medina-gazette.com.



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