MOUNT VERNON — Regarding the Coshocton Avenue transportation improvement project, the people of Mount Vernon have spoken, and their voices are being heard. Community members have been very vocal in their opposition to ODOT’s proposal to remove the traffic signal at Eastgate and Highland drives.
“We’ve had a petition signed by several hundred people saying we should keep that traffic light at Eastgate and Highland,” said City Councilman Bruce Hawkins. “If you think about it, it would be very difficult to get out of there without a traffic light. I certainly support keeping the traffic light. Our job then is to convince the state that that traffic light needs to stay. We have the golf course and water park and things over that way, and a lot of people use [Eastgate] as a way to get over there.
“The state is willing to give hundreds of thousands of dollars of money toward that project, and everyone I’ve talked to wants the city to have a better traffic pattern. Widening the road east of Sychar, and adding a turn lane, would help that particular area with the traffic pattern in that area, but the light itself would be problematic for those people wanting to get in and out.”
Connie Kreager, secretary to the ODOT District 5 deputy director, said ODOT officials are reviewing all of the comments they have received regarding the project.
“They have received quite a few comments,” Kreager said, “and they want to address all the comments. Whether this is talking to engineering, or whatever, they want to make sure everybody’s concern is addressed. They also want to meet with the City of Mount Vernon to go over these comments so everybody’s on the same page.”
After reviewing all of the comments, ODOT will schedule a meeting with the city officials to go over all the comments, and then decide what will be done. Kreager said the project is a joint venture and any modifications or changes to the plan will be a joint decision. She expects that ODOT district 5’s office will post any planned modifications by the end of December.
City Councilman John Fair is assuming the project will go forward.
“Once they had the open forum meeting,” he said, “ODOT was going to go back and look at all the information they had and then decide to go ahead with the plan as originally presented or make some kind of adjustment to the plan. It’s then going to have to come back to the council in order for us to say we are going to go ahead and expend x number of dollars to complete the project.
“There are two reasons I am against finishing that project,” continued Fair. “No. 1 is, it’s been that way for 37 years. No. 2, I know it might be hard to get from point A to point B at 3:30 in the afternoon, but is having a suicide lane in the middle going to make any difference? You can only use that lane if you are going to turn. You can’t use it just because traffic is backed up. It doesn’t make any sense to me to do a project that still bottlenecks at Park Street and Coshocton Avenue, and Park Street and High Street, and the Square.”
Besides widening the road and adding sidealks, Cameron Keaton, Mount Vernon city engineer, said some utility poles will have to be relocated and some trees will have to come down.
“If the poles are currently inside the current roadway right of way,” he said, “the utility companies will have to move them at their expense. But if they have their own easements along through there, the expense goes onto the city or whoever is requesting them to be moved.
“Once we purchase the right of way, when the utilities move the poles, they can either put them back inside the right of way, or, if they want to work a deal with the homeowners, they can put their easements back behind our rights of way and set their poles.”
Keaton said ODOT’s real estate division will be involved in the property acquisition process, which will not begin until the overall project plan is finalized.