STOW -- The city is pursuing a plan to decrease Graham Road traffic congestion by Stow-Munoe Falls High School, particularly during the school day.
But it is estimated it will cost about $2 million and it will not be done in the immediate future.
On June 8, City Council unanimously approved an ordinance authorizing the city to seek a federal grant through the Akron Metropolitan Area Traffic Study to pay the bulk of the cost of widening Graham between Fishcreek Road to the west and Newcomer Road at the line between Summit and Portage counties.
"The project is in the preliminary phase and in the concept design the widening would be needed for just one lane to accommodate both the traffic entering and exiting the school," City Engineer Jim McCleary told the Stow Sentry June 22.
McCleary said during Council's June 8 finance committee meeting, before the regular meeting, "In the last three years, this area has increased in crashes and also the delays people encounter, especially during the school day."
McCleary said the grant, if awarded, would pay for 80 percent, or an estimated $1.6 million, of the cost. He also said that the total project cost of $2 million includes both construction and right-of-way acquisitions.
McCleary, however, said even if the city receives the grant, the project is not expected to be done until at least 2021.
"It's about four or five years down the road," said McCleary.
McCleary also said the city has discussed the matter with the school district. District Operations Director Mark Fritz told the Stow Sentry June 28 that the project would be welcome.
"The traffic patterns for the high school have been a well-known issue within the community for years," said Fritz." "We have been working for the past three years with the city to design options that would be palatable to most folks who drive Graham Road. Those options we could control on our property have been visible to all as we move to adjust traffic for the safety of those that use our facilities. The city has a much more difficult time because of the various hoops they have to jump through to get approvals. We believe that their efforts will benefit not only those folks driving on Graham Road, but will assist us in our efforts in traffic on our property at the high school. Mayor [Sara] Kline and her staff have been very open and cooperative with us throughout the process."
The four-lane road drops to three lanes just a little east of Fishcreek, with the center lane a left turn only lane at the high school's entrance drive.
According to a 2015 AMATS traffic count, an average of 13,420 vehicles traveled daily in in the Graham corridor between Fishcreek and Newcomer and for a three-year period, 2013 through 2015, there were 34 crashes in that section, ranking it number three out of nine of what AMATS considers "high crash" road sections in Stow. Rankings are based not only on the number of crashes, but on other factors as well, including the length of the road section, traffic counts and severity of crashes.
By comparison, also according to a 2015, traffic count, 13,060 vehicles traveled daily on Graham to the immediate west of Fishcreek. The number rises to 15,590 vehicles on average daily, also according to a 2015 count, midway between Fishcreek and Darrow roads, where the road is also two lanes. However, no part of Graham from Fishcreek to Darrow is included on AMATS list of high crash sections for 2013 through 2015.
Meanwhile, on average, more than 30,000 vehicles on average traveled through the Graham and Fishcreek intersection daily and there were 56 crashes, with AMATS rating it number two of nine high crash intersections in Stow, according to AMATS.
"[The project] would allow less backups on Graham Road and shorter delays exiting the parking lot," McCleary told the Stow Sentry. "Widening would take place in the middle of the corridor near the school. Safety improvements to the [Graham and Fishcreek] intersection would also take place."
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