BY MIKE McCARTHY | MIRROR EDITOR — The traffic flow on the Ft. Meigs Memorial Bridge is back to full capacity for the first time in months, thanks to a decision made last Friday by Maumee city officials to remove the temporary cones and allow the full unobstructed flow of traffic traveling from Perrysburg into uptown Maumee.
Maumee Mayor Rich Carr met with city administrator Patrick Burtch, city council president Jim MacDonald, council member Josh Harris, capital projects manager Matt Miles and engineering inspection manager Matthew Griggs on Friday morning. After discussing the matter, it was decided that the best course of action was to remove the temporary cones and allow full flow of traffic on the bridge during the winter months.
The main factor in the decision to restore the northbound traffic to two full lanes was the stark reality of the massive influx of traffic caused by accidents and major construction work on I-475, which greatly increased the volume of vehicles being diverted into Maumee by traffic navigation apps. This increased flow was primarily responsible for causing backups on the bridge that extended deep into Perrysburg and forced a bottleneck close to the Broadway Street intersection in Maumee, which was only exacerbated by the placement of the cones.
The cones and temporary bump-outs had been placed in the northbound right lane of Conant Street near East Harrison Street, in the area where traffic was coming off the bridge. In place for several weeks, the cones served as a temporary guide to funnel traffic into a single lane prior to reaching the Broadway intersection.
Once traffic moved through the funnel and got closer to Broadway Street, the hope was that motorists would pick either the left lane to continue through uptown Maumee, or the right lane to turn onto East Broadway Street.
The logic behind the funneling of traffic was to hopefully prevent collisions or pedestrian accidents caused by inattentive motorists making last-second lane switches as they reached Broadway and realized that their only option in the right lane was to turn right onto East Broadway Street. The fact that students and other pedestrians frequently use that crosswalk was a major concern in the decision to funnel the traffic.
Residents have been complaining about the cones on the bridge for several weeks on social media. Several residents also attended the December 5 meeting of Maumee City Council and 10 individuals addressed council during the citizens comments portion of the meeting, with most expressing their anger and frustration about the long delays on the bridge as they tried to get home from work. Errands, shopping and doctors’ appointments in Perrysburg also became challenging, said the residents.
The city’s original plan was to conduct a traffic study for several weeks in the winter and early spring with the traffic cones in place, but the heavy I-475 traffic situation and the lack of the necessary time needed to prepare for the study between now and the spring construction season became overriding factors in making the decision to eliminate the cones.
To help motorists understand the lane situation at Broadway Street, a new sign has been erected on the Maumee side of the bridge, a few hundred yards before the Broadway intersection, which warns drivers to prepare for the right-turn-only lane ahead. Mayor Carr said there are plans to erect similar warning signs on the bridge itself, allowing more time for northbound drivers to prepare for what is ahead.
While the good news is that the bridge will remain at full capacity through the winter months, city officials warn that there will once again be temporary lane restrictions next spring. In April, the uptown Maumee revitalization construction project will resume on the west side of the 200 block of Conant Street as well as on the sidewalks leading down past St. Joseph Catholic Church to West Harrison Street and up to the southbound entrance of the Ft. Meigs Memorial Bridge.
Sidewalk construction will continue to the bridge in the same manner that was done on the east side of Conant Street in that same general area. A permanent barrier island will also be constructed in the middle of Conant Street near West Harrison Street to prevent northbound traffic coming off the bridge from making a left turn onto West Harrison Street, which will be permanently closed to access from Conant Street.
New archways will also be constructed over Conant Street in that area next spring as one of the final touches of the Conant Street portion of the uptown Maumee revitalization project.
In the meantime, local motorists have a few months to enjoy a somewhat normal commute to and from Perrysburg.