Akron Main St to be Revitalized Thanks to Federal Grant

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Downtown Akron is going through a traffic revolution.   Some long-time plans and brand new ideas are all coming to fruition at the same time. 

The 6 lane freeway that runs through the downtown is quiet now.   The Innerbelt was closed this year after just 30 years in operation.  It’s being replaced with slower boulevards. 

Meanwhile important downtown routes –Exchange and Cedar – now one-way streets are in the process of being converted back into 2-way avenues again. 

And there’s Main Street.  City officials held an open house last night to display their plans to revitalize that half-mile long back-bone of Akron.

MikeTeodecki of the city’s Bureau of Engineering says it’s all about making the city a place where people want to live, work, and play.”  

“We’ve met with people up and down the street. We’ve met with businesses.  We continue to try to gain public involvement to help reshape downtown.   This isn’t my project; this is those up and down the street.  To listen to them and build the Main Street they want is very important to us.” 

The first phase would replace one large, slow traffic light intersection with a roundabout to keep vehicles moving. 

A second phase would add bike lanes south of the Canal Park baseball stadium, an area with clubs, restaurants and student housing.

Plans call for reducing traffic lanes but adding a dedicated bike lane higher than street level, protected by a curb.  Sidewalks will get more space for outdoor seating.  The street will get pull-off lanes for parking, deliveries, and buses.  

Those downtown stakeholders range from law firms to restaurants to universities.  Teodecki says the city tried to satisfy each for their own needs

“And provide café seating in areas to help some of the businesses, and provide parking to help some of the businesses,  to provide drop-off lanes to help some of the businesses that have the beer truck, the bread truck, the Brinks truck, the Fed-Ex truck,” he says.

“All of those components had to be incorporated into this project to get it to function well.”

Some European cities separate traffic lanes from parking lanes.  Barcelona puts bikes and walkers in the middle of some boulevards with small playgrounds for kids.(urycki/ideastream)

The catalyst for the project was a $5-million-dollar federal TIGER grant last year.  TIGER stands for Transportation Investment Generating Economic Recovery and was started by the Obama administration to help communities recover from the Great Recession. 

Cleveland and Akron were two of just 40 cities in the country to win grants last year.

Cleveland’s $8 million dollar grant is going to new trails and bikeways for the Cleveland Metroparks.   

Akron will add $9 million of its own money to the Main St project.  The federal money came just in time. TIGER grants are being eliminated by the Trump administration.

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