With new paving on North Pleasant Street and parking spaces on East College Street, Oberlin council members hope to heal the relationship between the city and businesses, but worry about traffic and safety.
Fresh asphalt for the busy stretch was approved July 3 when city council inked a contract with Chagrin Valley Paving of Chagrin Falls, Ohio.
The cost is well under the estimated budget of $508,457, said public works director Jeff Baumann. A grant awarded by the Ohio Public Works Commission will cover 37 percent of the price tag up to $196,323.
The Chagrin Valley Paving bid of $317,000 and Quality Control Inspection’s proposal of $40,000 total a not-to-exceed project cost of $357,000. The Ohio Public Works Commission is expected to contribute $132,000.
The work on East College Street will begin at Main Street and continue east to Park Street, approximately a quarter mile. Seven parallel parking spaces will be added along the north side of East College to serve retail customers and the Peter B. Lewis Gateway Complex.
Parallel parking will be installed along the north curb lawn of East College between Pleasant and Willard Court. The existing curb lawn is about 10 feet wide. To accommodate the parking and to ensure good visibility, the curb will be moved back approximately eight feet, leaving a two-foot strip between the curb and the sidewalk. This strip will be filled with brick pavers to match other areas downtown.
When finished, there will be a nine-foot parallel parking zone adjacent to the new curb and 14-foot travel lanes in both directions.
Electric and other utility cables will be relocated under the sidewalk.
To maximize available space, Oberlin College has agreed to the elimination of its East College Street driveway to the Charles Martin Hall House since this property also has access from North Pleasant Street. Baumann said the change will cost about $20,000 and the college is expected to contribute $2,000.
Councilwoman Linda Slocum voted in favor of the project because it would help resolve problems Oberlin businesses have with parking.
Fellow councilwoman Sharon Pearson supported the effort but said she is worried about visibility for bikes and cars. Adding parking spaces will block the line of sight, and Pearson said drivers already have to ease out, causing backups on Pleasant Street.
City engineer Randall Roberts performed a line of sight analysis at College and Pleasant streets, said Baumann. “The safe speed limit is at 29 mph. That’s absolute plenty of time to know what’s happening. If vehicles are going faster than that — up to 33 or 34 mph — there’s still time for two vehicles to stop. We feel that there is adequate visibility,” he said.
The study was reviewed with fire chief Bob Hanmer and interim police chief Mike McCloskey prior to finalizing the design.
Drivers know the hump on the center line of East College Street at the Pleasant Street crossing can cause problems. To eliminate them, about 120 feet of curb at the southeast corner will be removed and replaced at proper elevations to allow a more even pavement surface, Baumann said.
“That’s our speed bump,” councilman Bryan Burgess laughed. He was concerned about a smoother surface encouraging drivers to go faster.
Building four-way stop signs is out of the question, Baumann said. According to the Ohio Revised Code, a traffic study would need to be conducted to determine that an equal amount of traffic is coming from all four sides.
Councilwoman Sharon Soucy suggested lighted crosswalk signs to slow down cars. McCloskey said crashes at East College and Pleasant streets are infrequent and not typically severe.
Historical crash data shows the 10-year crash average is 0.7 crashes per year. The five-year data average shows a decreasing trend of 0.4 crashes per year.
In those, all of the involved vehicles on East College Street were traveling west, so line of sight issues looking to the west did not contribute to the crashes. And all the vehicles were traveling below the posted 25 mph limit, so speeding wasn’t a factor, either.
“Based on my assessment, the additional parking, as proposed, meets Ohio traffic code requirements and does not pose a significant risk to traffic safety. I have no objection to the additional parking on East College Street,” the chief said.
Councilman Kelley Singleton pointed out that a near-accident is not a data point. “There’s a lot of ‘almost accidents’ there, in my opinion. It seems like cars entering that intersections are under the impression that there’s a stop sign there,” he said.
Laurie Hamame can be reached at 440-775-1611 or @HamameNews on Twitter.