A PROGRESS REPORT ON THE STUDY OF IMPROVEMENTS BETWEEN NAPOLEON AND TOLEDO
Public Identifies Problems & Concerns
Citizens who live, work and travel along US 24 had their first opportunity to voice concerns and help identify problems on US 24 from Napoleon to Toledo. The first public information meetings for the US 24 Napoleon to Toledo Preliminary Development Study were held on June 2 and 3, 1999, in the Village of Waterville and Liberty Center, Ohio, respectively. Nearly 700 people attended the two meetings. Four hundred forty-seven (447) participated in the Waterville meeting and 241 took part in the Liberty Center meeting. This newsletter provides you with an overview of the comments and input received.
Technical data such as accident rates, traffic volume (both current and projected), and information about the current road condition was presented. Attendees, through their written and oral comments, supported much of the technical data. Many suggested the main problem was the number of trucks on the roadway. However, traffic projections for the design year of 2023 indicate that if all of the trucks were removed from US 24, the auto volumes alone would still exceed the capacity of many sections along the existing roadway.
Overall, those attending directed their input and comments to the need to reduce the accident rate and move traffic more efficiently. By developing solutions to address these problems, capacity, congestion and safety will greatly improve, and new opportunities for economic growth may result.
Preliminary Alternatives Summary Report
Following the public meetings, a "Preliminary Alternative Summary Report" was prepared, which summarized the work completed thusfar. The feasible alternatives that will be studied further, and which were shown to the public, are presented in this report. There has been one corridor segment change that should be noted.
Pursuant to the meetings, residential and extensive commercial development plans were approved by the Toledo-Lucas County Plan Commission. The scale and extent of these Monclova Township developments would preclude the cost-effective development of a highway corridor through the area west and north of the Stitt Road/Waterville-Monclova Road intersection. Consequently, the most northern alternative segment that includes that area has been dropped from further consideration (see the figure below).
Maps Shown at Meetings
To provide the public an additional opportunity to view the corridors shown at the public meetings in June, ODOT has made the maps available for the public to view in the following locations:
Bowling Green Wood County Engineer,
Court House Square
Liberty Center Township of Washington, 5325 CR S-2; Mayor's Office, East Street
Napoleon Henry County Engineer, 660 N. Perry St.;
Fort to Port Improvement Organization, c/o Sue Westendorf, Co-Chair
Toledo Lucas County Engineer, One Government Center, Suite 870; TMACOG, 300 Central Union Plaza
Waterville Village of Waterville, 25 N. Second St.; Fort to Port Organization, c/o Jamie Black, Co-Chair
Public Assists With Environmental Data
One of the goals of the public meetings was to obtain feedback and more information on the environmental data collected and presented at the meetings. Much of this early information is obtained from public records, and sometimes exact locations are not clearly identified. As a result of public input, the following clarifications and adjustments were made to the draft information presented at the meeting:
- Attendees identified the location
of an eagle's nest and this site was added to the project database.
- The location of one known hazardous site was revised
and one new site was identified and added to the database.
- A site identified as a church was deleted from the study database following field verification.
One of the goals of the public meetings was to obtain feedback on the environmental data collected and presented at the public meetings. As a result of public input, several adjustments were made to the database, including the location of an eagle's nest.
"The Survey Said"
The main tool used for obtaining feedback from attendees was a survey developed for the meetings. Key results of that survey follow:
Of the nearly 700 citizens attending,
493, or 70%, completed the surveys.
While the survey was intended to gain feedback from participants, it should not be taken as an opinion survey from which to draw any statistically valid conclusions given the small sample size. These results can, however, provide the transportation planners with a better understanding of specific transportation problems perceived by the public about this corridor, why the problems are perceived, and what potential strategies may or may not be supported.
Residency and Travel Patterns on US 24
Of the 493 who completed the survey, five were residents of Fulton County, 158 were from Henry County, 304 resided in Lucas County and fourteen were residents of Wood County.
When asked about their relationship within the corridor, 89% responded they were residents, 59% were frequent travelers through the corridor, and nearly 18% identified themselves as business owners. Fifteen indicated they travel US 24 infrequently. US 24 is used for shopping trips by 55% of the respondents, commuting to work by 44%, and for business travel by 24% of all respondents.
Perceived Transportation Problems Along US 24
This chart shows that heavy truck traffic and safety are perceived to be the major problems by those completing the survey.
Respondents also identified several areas or locations of the corridor they felt most important to be addressed. The majority identified the entire length of the existing road through Waterville, or specific intersections as areas they wanted improved.
Factors to Consider Relative to Potential Solutions
Certain factors are important to the respondents when determining solutions. How well it reduces accident rates and improves safety in the corridor is the most important factor to those surveyed. This chart shows the factors that ranked the highest by respondents.
What You Told Us
A separate form was provided for written comments, and 56 were completed. Nine letters were also received. Study team members were on hand at the meetings to answer questions and record comments. In addition, input has been provided through the study hotline (toll-free, 1-877-487-5849) and the feedback page of the study web site (www.us24.org).
Overall, these comments supported the information obtained from the surveys about the problems along US 24. They also provided feedback on the preliminary alternative corridors presented at the meetings. Most of the comments received about the alternative corridors were general in nature. Most attendees vocalized their support or opposition to a corridor's location. Other observations worth noting are:
- Some attendees questioned the rationale for dropping the alignment along the railroad corridor from Liberty Center to Whitehouse. They were told that the impacts to residential properties, wetlands and endangered species habitat along that corridor would be greater than along other corridors presented.
- Little opposition was expressed to dropping the Wood County alternatives. Only one written comment was received indicating the need for further analysis of those corridors.
- As suggested by an attendee, an additional area was added to the alternative corridor along existing US 24 in the Grand Rapids area to allow consideration of bypassing the congested area near the bridge. This will be analyzed further in the next steps.
Ask for Identification
The study team has already heard from citizens who have encountered personnel they believe are associated with the US 24 team. Field personnel, connected with the US 24 study, have not been in the field but will begin work in early September. If someone tells you they are working on the US 24 project, please ask if they are with Sverdrup Associates, Inc. (the prime consultant) or one of the subconsultants. We would encourage you to call the hotline and verify their affiliation with Sverdrup Associates -- 1-877-487-5849 -- if you have any questions at all.
Answers to Questions
Since the public meetings, the study team has received questions from various interested parties. As you may have similar questions, following are some of the answers.
Q. What are those survey markers I've seen by my property? Some are marked "Fort to Port".
A. The "Fort to Port" markers were placed by our survey subconsultant as part of the process of mapping the overall study area. They have no relationship with any specific corridor, as they were placed before the corridors were developed. The "Fort to Port" identification is there to differentiate them from other markers placed in Northwest Ohio as part of a separate survey program for ODOT. The agency is in the process of updating all of their survey reference points, and the same survey consultant is working on that program.
Q. Why not lower the tolls for trucks so they will use the Turnpike?
A. According to the "Origin-Destination Survey of US 24/Ohio Turnpike Corridor at Ohio/Indiana State Line" conducted by ODOT, the great majority of truckers surveyed indicated that there is no suitable alternative to traveling along US 24. Most of those surveyed were concerned about the longer travel times on other routes and have chosen US 24 based on this consideration. The increased truck traffic on US 24 is more directly related to the amount of industry located within the US 24 corridor.
Q. If my house is within one of the corridors, does that mean my home will be taken?
A. It means that your house is in an area that will undergo further investigation before any alignments are drawn. These corridors are 2000' wide. Only one corridor will ultimately be selected, and the new highway will only require approximately 300 feet of that corridor. The corridors were drawn 2000' wide to give the engineers and planners as much flexibility as possible to avoid impacting homes, cultural resources, schools, churches, and other resources that may be in the individual corridors.
Q. To avoid taking farmland, why not just widen the existing US 24?
A. This alternative will be evaluated, along with several other improvement options including developing new alignments and "no build", or doing nothing. This process is mandated by Federal environmental laws to ensure that all reasonable alternatives are investigated before any decisions are made.
Q. Why not lower the weight limits to get the trucks off the road?
A. No State can restrict interstate commerce on a US highway. The State cannot impose a weight limit lower than its standard unless there is a deficient bridge or roadway section, which is not the case on US 24 between Napoleon and Toledo.
What's the next step?
To this point in the study, information about the resources within the US 24 study area has come principally from published sources and quick "windshield surveys." Now that the study has focused on a few specific alternative corridors, detailed on-the-ground surveys of those corridors will be conducted. Sverdrup has hired several specialty subconsultants who will assist in examining each of the corridors in greater detail. These experts (biologists, geologists, land planners, botanists and others) will document known resources (such as wetlands, cemeteries, parks, historical structures, and archaeological sites) and search for previously unrecorded resources. It is important for the engineers and planners to know where these resources are, and their significance, prior to developing actual alignments in any of the corridors.
In order to obtain the necessary information, these experts will be in the field collecting data. Some of the information can be gathered on public property; however, some of the information will require the specialists to gain access to private property over the course of the next several months. All property owners within each of the corridors will be sent a notice of the possible need to access property for these field investigations.
The next public meetings are scheduled for the Summer of 2000. The alignment alternatives in each of the corridors will be presented at this meeting, along with a summary comparison of their expected impacts and benefits. Once the public has had the opportunity to provide input and comments, a final preferred alignment will be chosen in Fall, 2000.
Copyright 1999 Jacobs, Inc.