Next steps for possible Butler Street closure

JANELLE PATTERSON The Marietta Times Marietta College students head to freshmen housing off of Butler Street Wednesday. Marietta City Council will ultimately decide whether or not to vacate Butler Street to the college for a new student/community center to be built between the freshman housing and Hermann Fine Arts Center.

Marietta City administration and council anticipate a large crowd for the presentation of study findings involving Butler Street next week.

The study’s focus: what impact on surrounding traffic would occur if Butler Street between Fourth and Seventh streets were closed to through-traffic?

Initial counts from the study were released in December, noting Butler Street between Fourth and Seventh streets sees an average of 2,664 cars pass through daily.

But the impact on surrounding intersections like the five-way intersection at the corner of Putnam and Seventh streets if those 2,664 vehicles were rerouted, and where they would go around Marietta College’s campus are two of many questions voiced at previous council meetings on the subject.

TEC Engineering, the consultant firm hired to perform the study, will provide an analysis that addresses those questions and others, like the impact on emergency vehicle travel. That will occur at a council meeting at 4:15 p.m. Wednesday in room 10 of the Armory, 241 Front St.

“We’re going to have our reveal at the streets meeting,” explained Councilwoman Kathy Downer, chairwoman of council’s streets committee. “Ed Williams (of TEC) is coming down to do the PowerPoint and then take questions afterward.”

She said the results of the study will also include recommendations to fix identified trouble areas like the Seventh and Putnam intersection.

“And then the mayor will decide about (a possible) temporary closure, and then council will vote on the funding,” said Downer.

Mayor Joe Matthews said he will not make a decision on whether to temporarily close the street until after next week’s meeting.

“I don’t have an opinion until I see that study and digest and understand it,” he said Wednesday. “Only after they make the presentation will I decide where to go next.”

After Wednesday, council has the option to introduce legislation to vacate the street to the college.

If Downer or three other members of council were to introduce that option, a four-person majority vote would be needed to pass and authorize the vacation.

But, if the mayor and at least three city council members decide additional study is needed of the section of Butler and surrounding streets, then council may consider appropriating an additional $12,500 for TEC to study a 30-day temporary closure enacted by the mayor.

That additional appropriation would be paid for by donation from Marietta College, who also funded the city’s initial study to be presented next week–$35,564.

Finance Chairman Mike Scales said Wednesday that he has already made up his mind, and “it’s a no all the way through” for him after talking with constituents of the First Ward, in which he both resides and was elected to represent.

“When the request for more money, even though it’s the college’s money, comes before finance (committee) I’m not going to sign off on it,” he said.

Therefore to appropriate the dollars to study a temporary closure, tentatively eyed for March, three other members of council would need to introduce the legislation jointly and five council members would need to pass the authorization with an emergency clause.

Meanwhile, Marietta College is hosting a public meeting today at 3 p.m. in the Gathering Place at the corner of Seventh and Butler streets, to gather community input on building a new student/community center.

The new center was the basis of the college’s initial request to council to consider vacating Butler Street.

“So we’re hosting this community meeting to get feedback from the different people in the community that may want to use a new center,” said Tom Perry, vice president for communication and brand management. “Our consultants on that planning process, NORR Architects, will be there and we want to hear what the public would also want to use the facility for. It could host weddings, other community events, that’s why we want feedback.”

Concerning the traffic impact study presentation to council next week, Perry said at least one representative from the college would be present.

Scales said he hopes other members of council see the discussion of vacation as only one of several options, including offering other forms of traffic-calming measures between Seventh and Fourth streets on Butler and possibly introducing a dedicated lane to the Williamstown Bridge on Greene Street.

If you go:

• Community Input Meeting: Marietta College is hosting a feedback meeting to learn what the public would request of a new student/community center on the campus.

• When: 3 p.m. today.

• Where: Gathering Place, corner of Seventh and Butler streets.

• Who: Public welcome.

• Traffic Impact Study Reveal: Marietta City Council and administration will hear the results of analysis of Butler Street between Fourth and Seventh streets, and the potential impacts on surrounding intersections if the section of Butler were closed to traffic.

• When: 4:15 p.m. Wednesday.

• Where: Room 10, 241 Front St.

• Who: Public welcome.

Source: Times research.