BY NANCY GAGNET | MIRROR REPORTER — While the Conant Street traffic configuration has caused congestion and frustration for drivers at peak hours, a change should soon come to help alleviate some of the aggravation.
Maumee Mayor Richard Carr said that the traffic signal at the corner of Broadway and Conant Street is not timed properly, which is causing substantial backups.
“The traffic study by DGL has been completed and the data has been collected, which means we should be authorized within the next week to have the signal changed,” he said.
That should help to reduce the backup, especially along Broadway, he added.
Last year, city leaders announced it would move forward with plans to temper traffic moving through the city, increase parking, create a pedestrian- and bicycle-friendly community, add outdoor gathering spaces and increase landscaping. That meant reducing traffic lanes along Conant Street, which was viewed as a first step in the process to those improvements. Earlier this month, council voted unanimously to make the traffic changes permanent.
City administrator Patrick Burtch had predicted that traffic would back up as drivers became aware of the new traffic pattern.
Recently, however, an increasing number of negative comments about the situation have been posted online. Lisa Rocco, who manages the Maumee Residents United Facebook page where many of those complaints have landed, eventually limited the number of posts on the subject.
“There are people who are not complaining or tired of the complaining, so we were trying to keep the conversation (about Conant Street) in one existing post, instead of filling the whole feed up with a bunch of posts about it,” she said. “It’s been rough. We’re not trying to censor or limit the freedom of speech, but at the same time, it is a group, and it does have rules.”
While several Facebook posts express discontent for the plan, there are business owners along Conant Street who are happy about the changes.
Mike Dibling, owner of Dibling Floor Covering, which is in the 300 block of Conant Street, said his business has benefited from the left-hand turns and extra parking.
“I’m excited for future uptown improvements, which are long overdue, including restriping, additional parking and left-hand turns,” he said.
For the past four decades, Dibling has also been the driving force behind the Maumee Summer Fair. His parents founded the event, and he and his wife have served as event organizers for much of that time.
“Slower traffic and fewer trucks will help to improve the event,” he said. “Plus, not having trucks rumbling by and shaking the buildings is better in the long term, and not a lot of people are talking about that,” he said.
JoAnna Nofziger, the coordinator for the Maumee Uptown Business Association, agrees. She plans the Easter Egg-stravaganza and the uptown trick-or-treating and said that pedestrians are much safer with the changes.
“In the past, we have had high school volunteers at the crosswalks making sure kids were safe crossing the streets because there was so much traffic and it was moving so fast,” Nofziger said. “Even though kids were with parents, we wanted to have extra people there just to make sure they were safe. Now, we do not have to worry as much, just knowing you have that extra barrier of protection with parking spaces along the road and traffic moving slower. It feels much safer now.”
Fr. Eric Schild, pastor of St. Joseph Catholic Church, which is located at the corner of Broadway and Conant streets, has not fielded any complaints from parishioners or staff regarding the traffic changes along Conant Street.
“I agree that there has obviously been some frustration with traffic. However, I also see the bigger picture that the city of Maumee is trying to put forward, and I appreciate the bigger picture. I appreciate that they are trying to make Maumee a place that people don’t just drive through but come to,” he said.
Schild said he has adjusted his routine in order to avoid backups if he is traveling to church. He also said that patience is needed to let the bigger picture unfold.
“I’ve seen the plan. I have seen what Mayor Carr and Patrick Burtch desire to do, and frankly, I find it very exciting. I find it to be a place that I am going to love even more to walk through and to spend time in,” Schild said. “There’s always going to have to be some sacrifices for the greater good. We see that with Easter coming, there is some suffering we go through to get to the greater good.”
Several organizations and residents submitted letters to the city in support of the proposal, including the Maumee Uptown Business Association, the Maumee Chamber of Commerce, Maumee Police Sgt. Robert York, and residents Susie Heywood, Margo and Eric Puffenberger, Todd and Jaimie Deye, Kristine Ludwig and Jon Fiscus.