What’s next for Butler Street

Closure not happening for now but improvements might be coming

JANELLE PATTERSON The Marietta Times A Marietta College student crosses Butler Street Wednesday.

It’s back to the drawing board– but with more factors and definitions than before surrounding Butler Street.

“We’re looking to figure out what our next steps are,” said Marietta College President Bill Ruud this week. “And we’re looking to continue conversations between the college, administration and city council.”

Last fall, Ruud requested Marietta City Council consider vacating the street to the college between Seventh and Fourth streets.

That request would have warranted a vote by council, but citing a lack in support to pass such legislation, a measure will not be introduced.

What evolved from that initial request was a traffic study of Butler, Fourth, Seventh, Putnam, Greene, and Third streets which was revealed two weeks ago before a public streets committee meeting.

“I was looking at it as an economic opportunity,” said Streets Committee Chairwoman Kathy Downer on Wednesday. “Both colleges and the hospital need to stay viable for the city of Marietta and vice versa. That’s the way I’ve been looking at it the whole time.”

The study identified needed improvements on many of the surrounding streets and intersections including work Butler would need if it remains open.

At that Feb. 13 meeting, an additional study was recommended with a temporary 30-day closure of Butler Street within the confines of the campus–to confirm or disprove results of the study.

But last week at council’s regular business meeting Mayor Joe Matthews said he would not authorize the temporary closure.

“I have received many phone calls for and against the temporary and permanent closing of Butler Street. The majority of calls were against (both) and the majority of council members surveyed were also against the closure,” Matthews said.

Downer said she has changed her mind this week, choosing to not introduce legislation to vacate the street at all.

“Up until Monday I was for taking it to legislation and a vote (by council) but then I came to if we do introduce legislation how do I vote on it?” she explained.

She mentioned speaking with Ruud this week and guiding discussions towards other options that wouldn’t outright close Butler Street.

“Like rerouting, bridges, tunnels, going behind Hermann Fine Arts Center,” Downer explained. “We’re hearing so much feedback from people especially in Norwood around Quarry Street that need a way through, and we’re listening to that.”

Meanwhile, City Engineer Joe Tucker said Wednesday that he’s looking at the countermeasures suggested in the study for all of the surrounding streets and intersections and what can be implemented first while planning for larger funding packages long-term.

“There are short, medium and long-term countermeasures suggested for each. Some, like addressing turning onto the Williamstown bridge, which is estimated to cost $9,000 but maybe we can cut those costs by doing the work in-house,” said Tucker.

TEC Engineering, the firm that performed the traffic impact study, reported that at the Williamstown Bridge intersection with Greene Street, the eastbound approach to that light experiences significant delay in the peak hours due to lane imbalance and the shared use of the lane.

To improve lane balance, the firm recommends moving back the stop bar and installing a concrete barrier guiding right-turning traffic onto the bridge behind the intersection.

Tucker also said some recommendations may fold into other projects already in the design stages, like the Ohio Department of Transportation urban paving project in planning for Third Street between Greene and Washington streets currently scheduled to be awarded in November with construction likely in the spring of 2020.

Councilman Geoff Schenkel, chairman of council’s planning, zoning and annexation committee, said he hopes to see more crossover in that planning of future projects with the city and business community’s work with OHM Advisors and the Enrich Marietta program.

“I think engineering has a very good opportunity to partner with OHM to make sure plans rolled out both in the downtown planning and the college’s long-range plans have a comprehensive benefit to improve traffic flow for the whole downtown,” he said.

Schenkel also encouraged the public to slip into Jeremiah’s Coffee House or the Marietta Brewing Company Friday evening to see some of the fruits of early planning produced by OHM Advisors and the Enrich Marietta group.

The endeavor had previously been rescheduled from February First Fridays events due to inclement weather.

Traffic Study recommendations:

• Install mid-block pedestrian flashing beacon (short term – $40,000): A common complaint in the online survey was near-crashes between pedestrians and vehicles in the mid-block section of Butler Street between Fourth and Seventh streets.

• Increase storage lane lengths (short term – $32,000) at:

• Third and Greene streets.

• Fourth and Greene streets.

• Greene Street and the Williamstown Bridge.

• Seventh and Greene streets.

• Seventh and Butler streets.

• Seventh and Putnam streets.

• General lane width improvements (short term – $120,000):

• The lane configurations and widths should be evaluated for the entire downtown Marietta grid. Multiple areas have wide and poorly defined lane widths.

• Some locations may allow for additional lanes or longer storage lanes.

• Narrow lanes can create an increase in safety due to vehicles traveling at a slower speed.

• Retiming traffic signals (mid term – $32,000): The traffic signals should be reviewed on a regular schedule to ensure changes in traffic trends are accounted for.

•The Institute of Transportation Engineers recommends retiming a corridor every three to five years.

• Eastbound right-turn lane at Williamstown Bridge (mid term – $9,000):

• The eastbound approach on Greene Street at the Williamstown Bridge experiences significant delay in the peak hours due to lane imbalance.

• The right shared lane is used for through and right turning vehicles.

• Options for countermeasures include: building another lane to turn traffic between Greene Street and the bridge, making the rightmost eastbound lane a right-turn-only lane, etc.

• Seventh Street and Putnam improvements (mid term – $112,000):

• An additional lane should be added to the Glendale Road approach to service more vehicles and cycle the signal faster on that approach.

• A traditional 4-legged intersection allows for evenly distributed phasing and improves safety and delay. In addition to other constraints for improvements, the cost for such an improvement is $5,650,000.

• Repair Butler Street (long term – $580,000):

• There are failing pavement areas, and the brick portion of the road is unstable.

• Signage and pavement markings need to be updated.

• The storm sewer system needs to be updated.

• The curb and sidewalk are also in need of repair.

• If this road is to remain open, repairs must be made to the roadway.

• During the design process, the city should consider narrowing Butler Street.

• It currently does not carry a lot of traffic (248 average number of vehicles per day).

• Narrowing the road would decrease the crossing length for pedestrians, reducing the exposure time.

• Narrowing the road could also help to reduce the speeds along Butler Street.

Source: TEC Engineering.