While Bath Township can be defined by its unique topography, landscapes and historical landmarks, its business district on state Route 18 is an important feature that has undergone significant growth over the years. It’s estimated that over 51,000 cars pass through the Montrose area on a daily basis, with a mix of retail businesses integrated among the city of Fairlawn, and the townships of Bath and Copley.
This area has long been a place for people to congregate, but connectivity among the businesses has been a source of frustration for those who drive, walk and bike in the area. Limited connectivity between businesses and a lack of paved sidewalks make travel difficult. During normal business hours, and especially during the busy holiday season, motor vehicle traffic can stretch for great distances on the S.R. 18 corridor.
Recognizing a need to study this area and develop a comprehensive plan for improvement, Bath and Copley townships, with the support of the city of Fairlawn, sought and received a Connecting Communities Grant in 2013, administered through the Akron Metropolitan Area Transportation Study organization. The $50,000 grant was awarded to the two communities to develop a comprehensive plan using Connecting Communities Initiatives and complete streets principles to improve pedestrian and bicycle access through the study area, transit and vehicle access through retail areas, parking access, corridor aesthetics and environmental impact. The Connecting Communities model utilized a regional planning process to explore strategies to increase transportation choices and accessibility, help communities make collaborative informed decisions to coordinate development, reduce environmental impacts, and improve regional connectivity.
Working with partner organizations, as well as the Ohio Department of Transportation, business owners in the Montrose area, AMATS, METRO RTA and the Summit County Engineer’s Office, the study focused on key features of the area that needed improvement. A survey was conducted of people who frequent the Montrose area, asking what things they like and dislike about the area. Traffic volume, frequent curb cuts, lack of sidewalks, extensive parking lots and negative visual appeal were some of the concerns expressed in the survey.
In addition to the survey, a series of public, stakeholder and business meetings were held. As a result of the survey and meetings, several recommendations were made for the area, including the addition of sidewalks. In fact, 70% of the survey respondents felt more sidewalks and crosswalks were needed.
Following the survey and building upon the Connecting Communities initiative, Bath Township, in partnership with the Summit County Engineer’s Office, applied for and received federal funding through a Local Technical Assistance Program grant in 2017 to construct sidewalks on the north side of S.R. 18 between the intersections of Cleveland-Massillon Road and Springside Drive. Work on the sidewalks was completed in 2019 and provides convenient pedestrian access through a central part of the Montrose area.
Envisioning a broader plan for accessibility throughout the Montrose business district, Bath Township once again worked with the Summit County Engineer’s Office in 2021 to apply for additional funds through a Transportation Alternative Set Aside grant opportunity. TASA projects use 80% federal funds and 20% local funds. The local funds would also include any cost overruns. Bath Township’s application included using federal funds for the environmental, engineering, right-of-way and construction costs for the sidewalk projects.
The funding would allow for completion of two additional phases of sidewalks in Montrose, one on the west side of Cleveland-Massillon Road from S.R. 18 north to Springside Drive and the other on the north side of Springside Drive from Cleveland-Massillon Road and returning west to S.R. 18. The entire project would create a comprehensive sidewalk network, greatly improving connectivity and access in the area.
Environmental Design Group, an engineering and landscape architecture consulting firm, was awarded the preliminary engineering and survey contract on both projects and is tasked with the surveying the area and completing the engineering designs for planned sidewalk improvements. In the upcoming months, engineering work along Cleveland-Massillon Road from S.R. 18 to Springside Drive will include surveying and establishing right of way limits. Final sidewalk design will commence after this initial work is completed, with funding for construction of this phase slated for 2024.
As part of the overall review of connectivity in the Montrose area, township officials also learned there will be changes coming to the METRO RTA bus routes. The #50 circulator bus that traveled a loop throughout Montrose was eliminated during the pandemic in 2020. METRO RTA will adopt what it refers to as a “Reimagine METRO” network in June of this year. The change would include mobility options in the area other than traditional bus stops.
We look forward to the opportunities that await our area thanks to this innovative federal grant. Sidewalk improvements throughout the Montrose business district affirm Bath Township’s commitment to pursue grant funding options that improve bike and pedestrian access and prioritize safety throughout the community. ∞