Police address proposed trail ordinance concerns with council

Requests emergency services exemption

Capt. Aaron Nedeff of the Marietta Police Department addressed concerns over River Trail legislation at Marietta City Council’s Streets Committee Wednesday.

Council introduced three pieces of legislation last week that if violated, would saddle an individual with a minor misdemeanor.

– Ordinance 121: Would make it illegal to operate a golf cart, side by side motor vehicle, three-wheeler, four-wheeler, motorcycle, ATV, garden or lawn tractor upon the River Trail.

– Ordinance 122: Would make it illegal to move at speeds greater than 15 mph on the River Trail.

– Ordinance 123: Would make it illegal to operate a motorized bicycle on any sidewalk in the city or on the River Trail.

If the ordinances pass as written, violation of any of the measures would leave one guilty of a minor misdemeanor, with a maximum fine of $150.

While Nedeff said he agreed with the premise of 121, he asked for an exemption for emergency services and maintenance to utilize a side by side in patrols and emergencies, and for tractors to be allowed for trail maintenance.

“But 122, I just don’t see a reasonable way to enforce that,” he continued. “We already have an existing ordinance that deals with reckless operation that puts the public in danger.”

He noted with a limited budget and limited staffing, foot and bike patrol funding is used up during the Ohio River Sternwheel Festival and with limited foot patrol in Harmar.

He said the department is running currently with one officer vacancy and one officer about to spend six weeks on medical leave.

“It’s everything I can do just to keep the shifts staffed,” he explained.

Streets Chairwoman Kathy Downer said her motivation for introducing all three ordinances was safety on the trail.

But the question remained on the table of how the three ordinances could actually achieve a safer trail.

An elementary school curriculum and public awareness events regarding the trail were suggested, along with mention of a width restriction on the trail instead of specified modes of transport.

Council will see a second reading on all three ordinances Nov. 1, at which point amendments could be introduced.

Butler Street

Council also discussed a formal proposal from TEC Engineering on the traffic impact study for But.ler Street.

Marietta College approached council in August to float an idea of closing the stretch of Butler between Fourth and Seventh streets to allow for college capital expansion.

Tom Perry, college vice president for communication and brand management, explained to council Wednesday that the college is willing to pay for the study. City Engineer Joe Tucker noted that even if council chooses to not close the block permanently, the city would benefit from the study and recommendations for maintenance and repair of not only Butler Street, but also Greene, Third, Fourth, Putnam, Seventh and Pike streets.

Councilman Mike McCauley said he has heard concerns from residents of Fifth and Sixth streets about what a closure would do to the state of Putnam’s brick blocks between Seventh and Fourth.

“Other than that I have an open mind on this and want to see what this study says,” he added.

Tucker explained that the study will first begin with a seven-day mechanical count of traffic patterns during peak time periods surrounding the six-square block campus. Turning movement counts will also be utilized in that study area and bluetooth sensors will be deployed to determine travel patterns via cell phone use in the area.

“They have a way to determine the speed at which a cell phone is moving to know whether that person is walking or driving, and to track the route they take,” explained Tucker.

Then after the initial data collection is complete,analysis from TEC Engineering will provide nine traffic models showing morning, mid-day, evening and special event traffic between 12 intersections. Those models will consider three scenario: existing condition with no improvements made in two years and by 2040; existing condition with recommendations made by 2020 and potential impact by 2040; and if Butler Street were closed what the impact would be by 2020 and 2040.

Fred Smith, director of the physical plant for Marietta College, explained that the college is also providing data from a study the college conducted when it closed Butler Street in 2009 for the NCAA Division III Outdoor Track & Field Championship. Tucker said past data from Ohio Department of Transportation traffic counts will also be integrated into the study.

Data collection is scheduled to begin Nov. 5 and run through Nov. 16, followed by stakeholder meetings in the final week of November.

Also in the schedule for the remainder of the year is time for a public meeting in December, city and college review through Jan. 4 and an optional temporary closure of Butler Street throughout the month of January.

“But that would have to be determined after the initial analysis,” noted Tucker.

Tucker included in documentation he provided to council a letter from the college noting a $34,564 check for the initial study, and an additional available reimbursement for $12,510 if the temporary closure is also conducted.