A new task force took its first look today at what it would take to convert Akron’s streets into greener versions that better integrate pedestrians, cyclists and buses as well as cars.
The group of planners, politicians and community representatives including a environmentally friendly Realtor and the YMCA, is digging into a draft of a city law that would build a concept called “Livable, Complete and Green Streets” into construction and reconstruction projects throughout the city.
Michelle Johnson with the Environmental Design Group says the idea is to build safety, aesthetics, business attraction and the environment into each plan.
“Bicyclists, pedestrians, cars, trucks, buses, streetcars. They all have to work together. They all have to be in harmony and safe.”
But Johnson says the specifics – such as bike lanes, rain gardens and curb bump-outs – would have to vary by neighborhood and project, and ensure the city can keep up with the maintenance.
Councilman Rich Swirsky, who authored the draft ordinance, says he’ll be looking for input from council and from neighborhood groups, as well as the task force, before the draft is finalized.
Akron is trying to work “green” alternatives into its billion-dollar sewer overhaul – and is trying to figure out how that might fit with changes in its streets as well.
Akron Planning Director Jason Segedy says the city needs to consider the individual needs and desires of communities impacted by each road project. But overall, the city has a lot of roads where four lanes could be cut down to three – with bike lanes, curbs and green buffers built in.
“Our streets by and large are overdesigned unlike a lot of cities. A lot of that’s a function of we’ve just lost a lot of people and business over the years. But that gives us some opportunities. I think many cities are fighting to add lanes and it’s very expensive.”
One example of the 50 streets throughout the city that Segedy says could become more livable is Opportunity Parkway, an often-deserted stretch of four lanes that runs through the old B.F. Goodrich plant.
More on the task force
The task force includes planners, engineers and politicians. But it also includes builders, realtors and advocates for public health, Akron neighborhoods and businesses. They’re all looking more closely at a draft of an ordinance proposed by Councilman Rich Swirsky to ensure community-impact is included in street designs and redesigns.
“The idea is, these are streets that make our lives more meaningful, safer, that protect the environment and that allow all of use to share in a more interconnected community.”
In some cases, that includes things like permeable pavement and putting the city on a “street diet” – narrowing roads from four lanes to three and adding rain gardens and other vegetation to keep runoff from pouring into the sewers.
Swirsky and the others say they want to ensure the community has input ahead of and during any project so each is responsive to neighborhood needs.