Kent officials discuss ambitious plans for big changes to 261

A long-term transportation plan published by Akron Metropolitan Area Transportation Study has provided insight into potential future road projects in Kent.

AMATS recently published its Transport Outlook 2045, which identifies regional transport needs and presents funding recommendations for various related projects. Some of the projects listed are more imminent than others, Kent Engineering Superintendent Jim Bowling said. However, none of them are beyond reasonable reach.

Here’s a look at some of the Kent road projects mentioned in the report:

After:City and State of Kent agree to share local costs of East Main Street project

After:Kent Council has asked for approximately $ 340,000 for the Brady’s Leap Trail Project

The construction of the Brady jump

Work on the Brady’s Leap segment of the Portage Hike and Bike Trail is currently underway. The project will provide better public access to the Cuyahoga River and improve connectivity between sections of the trail already located near downtown Kent.

Stairs will lead from the West Main Street Bridge to Whitewater Park below. A cycle staircase in the middle of the steps will make trips to and from the path and the street above more accessible to cyclists.

The cost of the project is approximately $ 1.5 million. Completion is slated for late summer, Bowling said. The project is funded by grants, municipal funds and a city loan to the city parks and recreation department.

Bike recommendations

Three long-term recommendations to improve cycling in Kent were also listed, all three involving shared use paths. A shared-use path is a travel area separate from motorized traffic that can accommodate other types of transportation such as wheelchairs and skateboards.

A suggested project for a side road on East Main Street extending from Willow Street to Horning Road has been listed. This will actually be done as part of the planned East Main Street project, which is expected to begin construction around 2024 or 2025, Bowling said.

An extension of Freedom Trail was also listed. AMATS suggested that it be extended from Middlebury Road to Route 43. The organization also recommended an extension of the Mill Run segment of the Portage Hike and Bike Trail. In total, AMATS estimated the cost of three projects to be around $ 3.7 million, but this figure is far from definitive.

A planning study for the Mill Run segment to determine a more specific cost is currently underway, Bowling said.

Route 261

The most ambitious project listed in the report was a “highway scheme” for Route 261, Bowling said. A road regime is a technique used to reduce the number of traffic lanes or reduce the width of a road.

Route 261 is essentially a four-lane divided highway. Originally built in the late 1960s through the early 1970s, Bowling explained that the route was intended to be part of a highway from Akron to Tallmadge. Aside from Route 216, the only other piece of the highway ever built was the Akron Inner Belt, which has since been decommissioned.

The fact that the 261 is built to handle a much larger vehicle capacity than it actually does has made it “possibly the most dangerous intersection in town from an accident standpoint,” Bowling said. Intersections such as Mogadore Road, Route 43, and Campus Center Drive have all been the subject of AMATS accident reports at different times.

A few years ago, an AMATS grant helped the city explore long-term solutions to address roadway safety and size issues. The results showed that it could be reduced to two lanes with different intersection configurations. The additional 220 feet of space created on either side by thinning the road could be turned into trails.

The next stage of the project would be another study to refine the cost of the project. A finished dollar amount and a timeframe are currently unknown, Bowling said, but AMATS estimated the project to cost around $ 10 million in its Transportation Outlook 2045 report. The city’s ability to complete the project would depend on obtaining it. funding, probably from several sources.

Main Street East

The process of deepening Project 261 would not begin at least until the end of the East Main Street Project, Bowling said. At present, it is still several years.

According to a previous report, Kent City Council was told that from 2016 to 2018, 12% of all city-wide crashes occurred on the 0.8 mile road that makes up the East Main Street corridor that faces at Kent State University.

A statement of purpose and needs for improvements in the Main Street East area outlined the objectives of the project. The project will be considered successful if it jointly improves safety and aesthetics for all users; balances vehicle congestion with improvements to other modes of transport; improves adjacent neighborhoods; fits into KSU’s 2018 gateway master plan; and provides reasonable access to adjacent properties and side streets.

Two public meetings on the East Main project will likely take place in late August or early September, Bowling said. Presumably, the city will show how the suggestions made by the citizens’ advisory committee and the city council changed the plans.

Construction on the East Main Street project is expected to begin in late 2024 to early 2025. Construction would take approximately three years. The project, which is expected to cost around $ 20 million, will be primarily funded by grants. The local share will be divided between the city and the university.

North Water Street

Looking at the present, Bowling said he firmly believes that the current construction on North Water Street is important from both a safety and development perspective. The roadway is being reconfigured to better accommodate automobile traffic, pedestrians, cyclists and on-street parking. The Town of Kent is also keen to give adjacent businesses the option of using the space for things such as outdoor patios.

The cost of the project, including design and construction, Bowling said, was around $ 1.5 million. Construction is expected to be completed within the next two to three weeks.

“This stretch of road was one of the worst collision lanes in the city when we started the project,” he said. “In the end, North Water Street will be more like the rest of the downtown streets.

Reach out to reporter Kaitlyn McGarvey about the Kent news via email at or on Twitter at @kaitlynmcg_rc.

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