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Akron transportation planning group charts path on next round of projects

Freedom trail.png
Summit MetroParks
The Akron Metropolitan Area Transportation Study
The second portion of the Freedom Trails funded by the Akron Metropolitan Area Transportation Study that will connect the existing Towpath Trail in Akron to the existing Portage Trail in Kent. This second project will cross Middlebury Road, provide a trail connection across the CSX rail line and navigate down to the western trailhead.

The Akron Metropolitan Area Transportation Study (AMATS) has laid out the next set of projects it hopes to tackle for the area it covers primarily in Summit and Portage Counties. AMATS next proposed Transportation Improvement Program (TIP) includes plans for new bridges, roundabouts and bike paths.

The draft of the program was presented to the public at a virtual Citizens Involvement Committee meeting Thursday where attendees were able to ask questions and offer feedback.

The Transportation Improvement Program, also referred to as the TIP, outlines the metropolitan planning agency’s highway, public transit, bike and pedestrian project for fiscal years 2024 through 2027.

“It is a document that covers a four-year period that shows all the federal infrastructure spending in the Greater Akron area,” TIP Administrator David Pulay said. “Any project that... utilizes federal money must be in this document.”

AMATS received more than $817 million in funding across federal, state and local sources for projects under the four-year Transportation Improvement Program.

The majority of TIP projects, Pulay said, prioritize maintenance and upkeep with about $290,100 and $395,600 going toward the preservation of highways and public transit systems respectively, and $39,200 for highway operational improvement projects.

“It’s a lot of preservation and maintenance,” he said. “By far the TIP now is mostly trying to just maintain and keep the system that we do have in place in a good state of repair.”

The majority of these projects, according to the draft, are pavement resurfacing, reconstruction and bride repairs.

In the draft TIP, AMATS plans to invest approximately $77,600 dollars in highway capacity projects, or projects that add additional travel lanes to the highway or roadway, and more than $15,800 in bike and pedestrian capacity projects.

The AMATS team highlighted several TIP projects that residents may look forward too, including the addition of two roundabouts on East Main Street near Kent State University, two Freedom Trails – bike and pedestrian paths that will connect The University of Akron to Kent State and the purchase of electric busses for public transit fleets.

Projects funded through the TIP will be monitored to see how they improve safety, congestion reduction, environmental sustainability and other metrics, to ensure they align with standards set by the Ohio Department of Transportation.

“Basically, performance measures is … a measure of whether the system is getting better or worse over time with the money that we're spending,” Pulay said. “So is the money that we're spending … bringing the grade up or is it are the grades still slipping?”

The AMATS draft Transportation Improvement Program is open for public comment through April 10. Comments can be submitted on the AMATS website, through the agency’s Twitter and Facebook accounts or in-person at the AMATS office located in  Suite 1300 of the PNC Center Building Downtown Akron.

Zaria Johnson is a reporter/producer at Ideastream Public Media covering the environment.