BY NANCY GAGNET | MIRROR REPORTER — On any given day, there are approximately 33,000 cars that drive through uptown Maumee, which is a staggering number for a city this size, said city administrator Patrick Burtch.
“It’s kind of like an expressway,” he said. “In most towns, in an uptown area you would normally see 15,000 to 18,000 cars on a busy day, so this is incredibly busy.”
Burtch doesn’t believe that the city of Maumee should be responsible for accommodating that type of heavy traffic. In fact, to encourage a reduction in that number, as well as to reduce the speed of traffic, Burtch has proposed a bold new plan that calls for shrinking the number of current traffic lanes by creating a three-lane cross section, or one lane of traffic moving north and south with one turn lane in the center for both left-hand and right-hand turns. In addition, parallel parking would be added along both sides of Conant Street from the Anthony Wayne Trail to Harrison Street.
To develop the proposal, Burtch is working with DGL Consulting Engineers, the firm hired to conduct the traffic study. Video modeling shows traffic backing up with the three-lane cross section, but he expects that to happen.
“We know it will back up traffic. The idea is to convince people to take other routes instead of taking the main drag through Conant Street,” Burtch said. “Our concern is with the Amazon delivery center they are putting up at the former Southwyck Mall, you will have even more traffic coming down here. At what point does it become too much and you get choked off? That is what you have to ask.”
Burtch requested approval to temporarily re-mark Conant Street from the Anthony Wayne Trail to Harrison Street in an effort to conduct a trial run of the plan before any type of construction would begin. By a unanimous vote, council approved a request to allocate approximately $40,000 to restripe the street. Council member Brent Buehrer abstained from voting on the issue due to a conflict of interest. The action took place at the July 20 special council meeting.
The restriping project could begin in the next few weeks and signs will be installed alerting drivers of the change.
Additional traffic proposals will include intersection modifications on the residential streets off of Conant Street to make bypassing Conant Street more challenging for drivers, Burtch said.
It is all part of an overall master plan for the entire uptown district, which calls for additional angle parking along side streets and gathering areas with decorative lighting and gas fire pits. Burtch will present information to members of the Maumee Uptown Business Association next month.
Maumee Mayor Richard Carr said that the Conant Street proposal represents a significant investment in the uptown district.
“This is part of a major commitment to uptown businesses to change what we had for years up there,” Carr said.
Heavy traffic is not business-friendly. In addition, for many years, city leaders were told that the state would prohibit changes along Conant, but that is not true, he added.
“I do support the idea of a temporary stripe because we are making such a big change and before we spend that money, testing it and getting a better idea how it works makes good sense,” Carr said.