TWINSBURG — Progress in the city’s "First Mile / Last Mile" connectivity study was outlined Feb. 5 to members of the planning commission and interested residents.

In 2016, the city was awarded a Connecting Communities grant through the Akron Metropolitan Area Transportation Study to find ways to fill gaps between existing pedestrian and bicycling paths.

AMATS funding for the study amounted to $23,000, with the city chipping in $10,000. Consultants from City Architecture and WSP USA are doing the study.

"Twinsburg’s study is looking at how to make the Ravenna Road corridor more accessible to alternative types of transportation," said AMATS planning administrator Curtis Baker.

AMATS developed the Connecting Communities initiative in 2010 to promote transit, bicycle and pedestrian uses and help create vibrant, healthy communities in the region.

Since then, the grants, along with the Switching-Gears.org and Bike-N-Brainstorm programs, have been created.

The project would create a multi-tiered system, making Twinsburg Township Square a more connected destination, link civic amenities, schools, commercial assets, parks and neighborhoods, and decrease dependence on vehicular circulation.

According to City Architecture’s Alex Pesta, the study focuses on Ravenna Road, northern commercial / neighborhoods, eastern neighborhoods, the civic campus and Township Square.

"Twinsburg has some excellent trails such as the Center Valley and Laurel Bike & Hike, but there are gaps between them which limit access by pedestrians and bicyclists," added City Architecture’s Michelle Bandy-Zalatoris.

"Several areas are not conducive to good movement of pedestrians and bicyclists. Eastern neighborhoods need to be linked better to Ravenna Road and the the northern commercial area and the Square."

She explained some ways of improving connectivity are creating bike lanes along Ravenna Road, installing signals and signs to make it easier for walkers and bicyclists to interact with cars and creating trailheads where cars can park to access a trail.

Pesta said consultants will return to the planning commission in April or May with recommendations. 

Mayor Ted Yates said there is no timetable for moving ahead with the recommendations, and anything that is done depends largely on how much money is available to implement connectivity projects.

Pesta said a handful of area communities — including Hudson, Kent, Barberton, Boston Heights, Montrose and Richfield — have landed Connecting Communities grants and are working to improve connectivity.

He said, for example, Barberton has named its project "The Magic Mile." He noted that if Twinsburg develops a plan, it should choose a name which gives the effort an identity.

"There are some great assets for connectivity success hidden in Twinsburg’s neighborhoods," he said. "But you need to get people excited about the planning effort."

Twinsburg City Planner Lynn Muter said that thus far the city has just "chipped away at the surface" with the connectivity plan. She said officials haven’t really reached out to the target audience — families — for input.

"We could set up a table at a busy venue, such as the fitness center, and ask residents for input about making the community more pedestrian and bicycle friendly," she said.

Several planning commission members said they agreed with the target areas identified by the consultants. Some said the plan should take into consideration redevelopment around the Square and Old School.

"This project is crucial to the downtown redevelopment process," said Yates. "It would help to make downtown a destination."

Sam Taylor, a member of the Twinsburg Public Library board, said library officials welcome improvements which would bring more pedestrian and bike traffic to the library. He said better connections also are needed to Twinsburg Township and Reminderville.

"Except by car, it’s almost impossible to get from the Heights area to the library, and it’s tough to travel between Reminderville and the library," he said.

Reporter Ken Lahmers can be reached at 330-541-9400 ext. 4189 or klahmers@recordpub.com