By Jeff Gallatin
City Planning and Development Director Kim Wenger is taking steps to give North Olmsted a green light for updating decades-old traffic signals and related equipment.
Wenger sent a formal request to the Northeast Ohio Areawide Coordinating Agency (NOACA) in late November to get the regional agency’s assistance in getting federal funds to upgrade North Olmsted’s traffic signal system in anticipation of the multi-million dollar project.
“That type of work doesn’t come cheap,” she said. “We’re talking about anticipated costs of more than $10 million for this project.”
Wenger said she doesn’t anticipate quick results on the funding request.
“This one is the type that typically you can expect to take two to three years to get done, because they’ve let me know they already have several project requests on this list,” she said. “But we do want to get our name on the list. Sometimes, something can happen with one of the other projects or funding changes.”
She said getting North Olmsted’s name on the list right now should provide financial benefits in addition to getting better timing for the project.
“We’ve heard that the local share on projects like this might be increasing by up to 10 percent more,” she said. “We understand that if we get our name on the list now, the request would be considered under the regulations currently in effect. That means for a project like this, where it’s currently a 20-percent local match, it would mean $2 million out of the $10 million, instead of up to $3 million out of $10 million if it went up 10 percent. While $2 million is still a lot of money, putting the request in now will still save us money in the long run.”
Wenger said the traffic signal system upgrade is needed.
“A lot of the current signal equipment, their hardware and related infrastructure are past their expected life and need replacement,” she said. “At aged intersections, the signals will be completely rebuilt, while at more recently constructed intersections, the signals will be upgraded, the signals will be upgraded as needed.”
She said much of the system is 20 years old or older.
“We considered simply upgrading all of the existing controllers and hardware, but it was deemed insufficient because of the age of much of the system,” she said.
Wenger said the application notes North Olmsted has one of the highest traffic volumes in Northeast Ohio due to commuter and retail traffic. She cited areas such as Great Northern Boulevard, Stearns and Crocker roads, Clague Road and Dover Center Road.
“A modern traffic signal system is necessary to maintain the flow of traffic throughout the city,” she said.
She said because of the size and scope of the project, the work would be done in two phases, with Lorain Road tentatively expected to be the focus of the first phase and other roadways taken care of in the second phase.
Paul Barker, chairman of City Council’s Finance Committee, lauded the project and Wenger’s handling of it.
“It’s something which is long overdue in the city and definitely needed,” he said. “The roads are a big part of the city, and making sure they’ve got the right traffic signals and equipment is a big part of that.”
He said getting the request in now before the funding rules change is also a good move on Wenger’s part.
“As always with Miss Wenger, she’s planning ahead for the best interests of the city and trying to make sure we get the best financial situation possible for the city.”