Mayor Mike McCann’s administration made the case for a downtown “road diet” to Defiance’s Rotary Club members Monday at Veterans Memorial Park.
The presentation on the proposed traffic changes to downtown Defiance was made during Rotary’s regular luncheon meeting. (Meetings have been resumed in recent weeks after having been suspended earlier this year due to the coronavirus situation.)
City Engineer Melinda Sprow presented Rotarians with an overview of the so-called road diet proposal as well as a recap of the administration’s recent efforts at downtown development, noting that several past administrations have held “very nearly the same vision.”
The road diet would change Clinton Street traffic patterns between the Maumee River and Triangle Park.
This would include eliminating on-street parking in the 100 and 200 blocks and removing one northbound lane and one southbound lane between Second Street and Triangle Park. The additional space would be used for installation of a bicycle lane and three-foot buffer zone on Clinton Street, from the Maumee River to Triangle Park.
Meanwhile, left turns for northbound motorists from Clinton Street onto Second Street would be eliminated while a second left turn lane for southbound vehicles from Clinton onto Second would be added. Diagonal parking would be added in certain areas downtown to compensate for the loss of spaces in the 100 and 200 blocks.
The proposal has been dubbed “Destination Defiance” by administration officials who want to promote more vibrancy in the downtown. While hoping to attract more people to the downtown area, officials are predicating the plan on slowing down traffic and reducing trucks to improve pedestrian safety.
McCann, whose proposal faces opposition in some circles, claimed that the “average speed” in the downtown — which has a 25-mph speed limit — is 43. He said police enforcement of the speed limit “is not necessarily the answer” to the problem.
Sprow explained that the downtown’s rate of crashes involving bicycles and pedestrians is “much higher than the state’s average.” She called that “the biggest reason we want to do this.”
But before the road diet could come to fruition, city council would have to approve it. And if council agrees to move forward, city residents could bring forth a petition asking that any legislation approved by council be placed on the ballot for all Defiance voters to decide.
A council vote could be a ways off, however. During Monday’s Rotary meeting McCann repeated his previously stated commitment to convene townhall meetings — when possible under social distancing guidelines — to discuss the topic with the public before anything goes to council.
Thus far, his administration has held meetings with downtown business owners.
Besides the road diet idea, the city also is working on a plan to develop an area on the west side of Clinton Street’s 100 block, just south of the Purple Heart Bridge over the Maumee River.
Several buildings there have been purchased by the city recently, primarily with grant funds. These will be demolished and replaced with some modest improvements such as park space or an amphitheater.
Defiance architect Jerry Overmier has put together concepts about what the city might put there.
While saying his plan needs further study before being shared publicly, McCann said “it’s one of the neatest concepts that I’ve seen for our downtown community in a very, very long time. It was amazing. I told Melinda (Sprow) afterwards I don’t know what I expected, but it certainly exceeded my expectations. Anything I was thinking about it was way, way, way beyond.”
Too, Sprow told the Rotarians that the “potential” of the 1918 school building on Arabella Street “could really be a focal point for our downtown.”
The Defiance Development and Visitors Bureau also is considering an expansion of the downtown outdoor refreshment area (DORA). This would move the district east of the Auglaize River on Second Street and north, perhaps to include Pontiac Park, Sprow indicated.
The DORA allows adult beverages to be served by designated businesses in special cups for consumption in the downtown area. The DORA was established in the summer of 2019.