BY MIKE McCARTHY | MIRROR EDITOR — In a response to petition signatures from 40 residents of both East and West Harrison streets, Maumee City Council has unanimously approved the permanent closing of access to and from Conant Street involving the two side streets.
The measure was approved at the July 18 meeting of Maumee City Council and will be implemented this summer.
Citing safety concerns, Dan and Shelly Schaefer, of 114 E. Harrison St., approached Maumee city administrator Patrick Burtch a few weeks ago to inquire about the possibility of the city closing their street to the Conant Street traffic.
The couple stated that several drivers have been making illegal turns from Conant onto their one-way street, with many of those vehicles traveling at a reckless rate of speed, causing serious safety issues for residents in the neighborhood.
Similarly, many motorists have been using the 100 block of West Harrison Street as a cut-through to avoid traffic on Conant Street in uptown Maumee. Residents of West Harrison Street also contend that many of these motorists are traveling at a high rate of speed with little regard for the safety of pedestrians in their neighborhood.
Additionally, a significant traffic bottleneck occurs when motorists traveling north along Conant Street from the Ft. Meigs Memorial Bridge attempt to make a left turn onto West Harrison Street, which is located just one block south of the dedicated left turn lane on Conant at West Broadway Street.
As motorists attempt to make the left turn onto West Harrison, they often must pause to wait for an opening in the oncoming traffic heading south along Conant Street toward the bridge. As these vehicles sit in traffic attempting to make the left turn, the rest of the northbound drivers from the bridge are often forced to make a slight shift into the right lanes as they approach Broadway, forcing some vehicles to make an unwanted turn onto East Broadway Street.
Burtch advised the Schaefers to spearhead a petition drive among their East Harrison Street neighbors to gauge the interest of the city implementing a dead end. He said that if a majority of the residents agreed with the closure, the matter would be brought before city council for consideration.
The Schaefers’ petition stated, “The heavy traffic along Conant Street and limited visibility make it dangerous for drivers heading west on East Harrison Street to turn either direction onto Conant Street.
“There has also been an increase in wrong-way turns onto East Harrison Street from northbound Conant Street traffic, as drivers try to avoid the traffic light at Conant Street and Broadway Street. This creates dangers for drivers pulling out of their driveways, with traffic flowing in the wrong direction. It also makes additional hazards for children trying to cross Harrison Street from Union School,” the petition added.
The petition also stated that “the challenging traffic flow situation began when the alley across from Union School was converted into a one-way alley heading toward East Harrison Street, leaving no safe egress for those of us living in this block. We request that street parking remain along the south side of East Harrison Street, and that two-way traffic be permitted along East Harrison Street and Gibbs Street.”
The Schaefers’ petition received 23 positive signatures from residents of East Harrison Street, with no objection from the Maumee City Schools, according to Superintendent Dr. Todd Cramer.
A similar petition was circulated in the first three blocks of West Harrison Street by Margo Puffen-berger, who resides with her husband Eric at 318 W. Harrison St. Puffenberger also serves as a member of Maumee City Council.
Puffenberger’s petition produced 17 affirmative signatures, four no votes and responses from 11 residents who said they were indifferent to the proposed change.
At the July 18 council meeting, Dan and Shelly Schaefer spoke in favor of the dead-end proposal along with their neighbor, Lindsay Hierholzer, of 112 E. Harrison St. Nobody in the audience of 17 spoke against the change.
Council approved the dead-end closures of both sides of Harrison Street by a 6-0 vote. Council member Puffenberger had an excused absence from the meeting and likely would have been required to abstain had she been present, since the matter had a personal impact on her family.
Burtch estimated the engineering and construction cost of the road change to be approximately $75,000 or “possibly net zero,” according to his report.
The passage of the Harrison Street changes could not have been better timed from a construction standpoint. Currently, Helms Construction crews are winding up the curb and sidewalk renovations of the 500 and 600 blocks of Conant Street to the Anthony Wayne Trail and should be done within the next two weeks.
After that, the next phase of the Uptown Maumee Streetscape Improvements Project involves work on the approach way from the Ft. Meigs Memorial Bridge and the 100 block of Conant Street, the same area that encompasses East Harrison Street to East Broadway Street near the former Union School.
It is possible that much of the cost of the Harrison Street dead-end project may be absorbed into the overall cost of the uptown streetscape project. The construction work on the eastern portion of Conant Street could be completed by as early as late August.
At that point, the construction work shifts to the west side of Conant Street for the remainder of the 2022 construction season.
It is unclear at this time when the West Harrison Street dead-end construction work will be implemented, or if there will be a temporary sign installed to mark the closure.