Some Springfield and Clark County leaders believe a $1.8 million project on Derr Road will improve safety and quality of life in the area, while others said it will slow down traffic and affect businesses at the nearby shopping center.
Scott Schmid from the Springfield-Clark County Transportation Coordinating Committee and Steve Thieken, an engineer with TCC’s consultant, Burgess and Niple, spoke about the project to city commissioners this week. A large group of people attended the meeting, including the Bike Springfield organization and the Changing Gears cycling club.
The project — which includes $1.5 million in federal money and $300,000 in city matching funds — calls for converting Derr Road from four lanes to three lanes between Home and Villa roads, which would include a center turn-lane and make space for bike lanes in both directions.
Public meetings for residents to offer input on the project are expected to be held next summer, Schmid said.
TCC’s consultant, Burgess and Niple, completed a corridor feasibility study on Derr Road between Home and Villa roads earlier this year, as well as Home Road between Ohio 4 and North Limestone Street.
The project won’t create delays, the report says, but it will reduce travel speeds and improve safety. The nearby bus stops won’t have an effect on traffic in the corridor, it says.
About 10,000 cars drive on Derr Road between Home and Villa roads each day, according to TCC traffic counts.
The corridor averages about 30 crashes annually, which is higher than other corridors with similar daily traffic counts, Thieken said.
The project would make the roadway similar to others with two lanes and a center-turn lane, such as East High Street and West McCreight Avenue, Schmid said. However those roads aren’t comparable because they don’t have large shopping centers on either side like Derr Road, Springfield City Commissioner Kevin O’Neill said.
“That’s a major corridor with regards to development of the north sector of Springfield,” O’Neill said. “When we start throwing these comparables out, they have to be comparable to what the people are there for.”
The lane reduction isn’t the answer, O’Neill said. The proposed project would take away lanes while putting the same number of cars on it and saying it will be OK, he said.
“I’m sorry, I don’t see it,” O’Neill said.
Misinformation has been spread about the project on social media, Springfield City Manager Jim Bodenmiller said. The city believes the traffic will slow down on its own of the planned lane reduction, he said.
“The speed limit doesn’t change, it will remain at 35,” he said.
The project also won’t create more traffic, he said. The traffic will remain the same, it will just be constricted to two lanes with a center turn lane, rather than four lanes, Bodenmiller said.
It’s also not being done simply to add the bike lanes at no cost, he said. The changes have been examined as safety, congestion and air quality improvements, Bodenmiller said. Grant money can be acquired to help repave the roadway and make those improvements happen, if approved by commissioners, he said.
“That should be considered a good thing,” Bodenmiller said. “You should want your city manager and TCC folks to look for those opportunities. We can always turn them down if we decide we don’t want to go forward with the project.”
He asked residents to have an open mind about the project. Bodenmiller lives nearby and said he was initially opposed to the project but now favors it.
“We can’t automatically be against change,” he said. “Derr Road is not as busy as it was projected to be. It’s less busy than other roads you travel every day that you don’t even know … We’re used to it being for lanes, so that’s the only concept we have of it.”
The amount of road projects in the area, including recent improvements on Villa and Derr roads north of the proposed project, have hurt businesses in recent years, said John Downing, who owns Downing’s DO It Best Hardware, 2982 Derr Road.
“We can’t get customers and now we’re talking about closing the road again in another year-and-a-half,” he said.
Nobody has asked the owners of the retail stores what they need, Downing said. He hopes to be involved in the process in the future.
“It feels like you’re taking care of the big stores and you’re not taking care of the small stores that have been here for years,” Downing said. “In the long run, I don’t know if we’re really serving the people and retail stores or are we just serving the easiest way to do things? … It feels like the little guy is getting pushed and this town was built on little people, not big stores.”
Springfield city commissioners are expected to vote on the project on Aug. 29.
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By the numbers
$1.8 million: Possible total cost to decrease Derr Road from four lanes to three, including a center lane, between Home and Villa roads.
$300,000: Springfield’s local match for the road projects.
30: The average amount of crashes from 2013 through 2015 on Derr Road between Home and Villa roads.