BY NANCY GAGNET | MIRROR REPORTER — A new three-lane traffic pattern, wider parallel parking and curb bump-outs are now marked in uptown Maumee and so far, drivers are making their way through it without too many problems.
Maumee Police Chief Dave Tullis said that backups are common during peak hours, but that was expected.
“Out of a 24-hour period, we are looking at maybe an hour and a half in the evening and an hour and a half in the morning that get busy,” Tullis said.
Tullis believes it will take time for drivers to get familiar with the new pattern and advises to plan accordingly.
“The biggest problem that I see is cars stopping and not clearing the intersection,” Tullis said. “If a car ahead of you stops, you should not enter the intersection unless you know you can clear it. If you don’t, and the light turns red, that’s violating the law.”
Officers will issue citations for that, he added.
In July, Maumee City Council approved a request to allocate approximately $40,000 to re-stripe the street to both temper and slow down traffic. The plan calls for shrinking the number of current traffic lanes by creating a three-lane cross section, or one lane of traffic moving north and one lane moving south, with one turn lane in the center for left-hand turns.
In addition, parallel parking is to be added along both sides of Conant Street from the Anthony Wayne Trail to Broadway Street.
When asked if the new configuration would negatively impact emergency vehicle access, Tullis said that it would not.
“To be truthful, it’s probably a little better because they can use the turn lane. It’s always been crowded at certain times, and before, when you had all four lanes, it was hard to get through. So I am not concerned about that at all,” Tullis said.
When the plan was first proposed in July, city administrator Patrick Burtch reiterated that the plan would back up traffic significantly. Burtch has proposed this plan to enhance a more pedestrian- and bicycle-friendly community, with ample parking as part of a larger uptown Maumee master plan.
Maumee Mayor Richard Carr said that following a presentation about the plan at a Maumee Chamber of Commerce meeting, the city has been contacted from new businesses interested in moving into the area.
“The businesses have been paying attention. I think this is going to benefit the uptown,” Carr said.
New artwork is also being created to illustrate the potential improvements in the entire uptown district as part of a larger master plan initiative, Carr said.
“Once the drawings are done, that will give us the beginning of what a master plan will look like going forward and we will make an announcement on that as soon as they come in,” he said.
Some business owners are still unsure about the new traffic proposal, including Kevin Abair, owner of Spoiled, which is located in the 200 block of Conant Street.
“We are glad that change is happening. Whether this is the correct change, I don’t know. We are not fully convinced that this is the answer, but we will wait and see,” he said.
Marc Monnette, who is breaking ground soon on a new market in the 200 block of Conant Street, is also cautiously optimistic about the proposal.
“It’s got its pluses and its minuses like most things do. I love the idea that there will be left turn in and left turn out. I love the idea of more parking in uptown – that’s wonderful,” he said. “I’m not too excited about dropping the lanes down to three lanes. I think that will create anger and anxiety. There are not too many alternatives. I understand the idea that the city is trying to reduce traffic, especially the truck traffic, but as a business owner, I don’t like less traffic going in front of my location. We will see what happens. I believe Patrick Burtch has done a lot of research, so we will see how it goes.”
Kendra Bills, the owner of In Bloom Flowers and Gifts, has a unique perspective, having operated from a location in the 200 block of Conant Street for six years before moving to the 100 block of West Wayne Street three years ago.
“Now that we are in this location, I feel like traffic on the street is slower and there are more people walking and going into nearby salons, and they see us, so it’s been a good move for us. We’ve been having a small, steady increase in sales and walk-in traffic.”
Bills believes that it will take a while to process the proposed plan, but as things begin to change, the positive impact on the business community will become clearer.
“I think if people slow down and have a reason to take time once this whole proposal is worked out and people see what is being offered in the area, it will feel like a destination and not a thoroughfare,” she said. “I think times have changed and if smaller businesses are going to make it locally, I really feel that it is important to take a really good look at making your town a destination stop that people want to be in and give them a reason to want to be there.”