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Traffic counts from February confirm that the Fairchild Avenue Bridge has continued to have a calming influence on traffic in the Crain Avenue neighborhood in Kent.
According to city traffic statistics from November 2011, daily traffic on Crain Avenue had fallen 55 percent a few weeks after the new bridge opened, replacing the Crain Avenue Bridge. Counts taken this February showed traffic has continued to fall on the street, from 4,500 vehicles per day in November 2011 to 4,300 in February 2013, representing a 4 percent drop.
Kent City Engineer Jim Bowling said city officials took seriously residents' concerns over the amount of traffic on Crain Avenue when they were designing the replacement for the Crain Avenue Bridge. The original design for the new bridge lined up with Crain Avenue, but it was abandoned in favor of a bridge connecting Fairchild Avenue and North Water Street.
"When this project was first done, it was intended to be traffic calming for the Crain Avenue neighborhood," Bowling said.
He said the project is approximately 90 percent complete, adding that work on the pedestrian and utility bridge running parallel to the Fairchild bridge will wrap up with fall.
Use of the Fairchild Avenue Bridge has also grown significantly since the first time the city took traffic counts after the span opened.
The city counted 13,900 vehicles daily on the Fairchild Avenue Bridge two weeks after the bridge opened on Oct. 27, 2011. Traffic counts from February show daily traffic grew to 18,000 vehicles per day, representing a 29 percent increase.
City officials speculated the low usage on the new bridge in its opening weeks was due to drivers staying on S.R. 43 and S.R. 59 to avoid the area as they had during the bridge's construction. Now the use of the new bridge has actually exceeded initial estimates from the Ohio Department of Transportation by about 6 percent.
Bowling said of the three streets that intersect just north of the new bridge -- Crain Avenue, Lake Street and North Water Street -- only Water Street has seen an increase in traffic since the bridge opened. He said motorists may be using the bridge as a gateway to the $110 million downtown redevelopment projects, which include new restaurant and retail spaces.
"Where (drivers) are going is down Water Street," Bowling said. "We (attribute) some of that to the new development downtown. There's a new destination down that road."
Along with reducing traffic in the Crain Avenue neighborhood, Bowling said the project has also improved one of the city's most congested intersections.
He said the average wait time during peak hours at the intersection of Crain Avenue, Lake and Water streets was about 99 seconds before the bridge project began, resulting in an "F" grade for level of service from ODOT. Data from this February showed an average wait time of about 18 seconds, which represents a "B" grade.
"From a congestion standpoint, it's functioning as it was intended," he said.
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"From a financial standpoint it would be nice to get the new downtown to function as it was intended".