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Health, Science & Environment

Trabue Road updates to include room for pedestrians, bicyclists

Multimodal Travel Bike Pedestrian Car Bus
Mid-Ohio Regional Planning Commission

More and more road projects in the region will include elements that make streets safer and easier to utilize for all users, not just those driving their personal vehicles.

The Mid-Ohio Regional Planning Commission has a goal of incorporating the vision of “Complete Streets” into every road project in the region by 2050, according to MORPC’s 30-year transportation plan. Part of that strategy encourages local governments to adopt Complete Streets policies and implement them during new projects.

With money coming from several federal, state and local sources, MORPC expects the region to spend more than $13 billion by 2050 on road projects using the principles where applicable, the plan states.

Complete Street elements can make projects more expensive, by adding more space, pathways and equipment to accommodate more types of users, but advocates say the additions ultimately make roads safer and more accessible for all users.

Renee Fox

Transportation accessibility advocate David Roseman explains the principle like this: “In a nutshell, complete streets are for all travelers…” and “considers the needs of all people – whether they are walking, bicycling, using shared mobility devices, mass transit, riding school buses, ect.”

Carla Marable with the engineer’s office, which adopted a Complete Streets policy in 2019, said the principles bring a more holistic approach to roadways.

“Traditionally, when we think of infrastructure we often think of roads and bridges, and we think of passenger vehicles. However, what Complete Streets does, is it looks at infrastructure and transportation in a more holistic approach. So, it doesn’t only look at passenger vehicles, it looks at mass transit, freight, pedestrians, bicyclists, and it also looks to incorporate appropriate infrastructure for those who may have disabilities as well,” she said.

One ongoing project shows how expenses in these types of projects can grow. When Franklin County engineers originally planned a project to improve Trabue Road between Riverside Drive and Lake Shore Drive, the design costs with Osborne Engineering Inc. was set at about $300,000.

But, after the Complete Streets coordinator reviewed the project and identified ways to incorporate Complete Streets into it, the design cost tripled to about $900,000, according to documents filed with the Franklin County commissioners.

MORPC is providing an $8.7 million grant to fund the $11 million project.

That project includes increasing the width of the bridge deck over the Scioto River to make room for pedestrians and bicyclists along with five lanes of traffic.

Trabue road in Columbus, Ohio.
Renee Fox
A bridge over the Scioto River on Trabue road.

Right now, a bridge over the river and a bridge over Scioto Pointe Road has no sidewalk or a shoulder. And there are no crossings along the portion of the road for pedestrians in the recent housing developments just off Trabue Road.

The bridge deck over the Scioto needs improvements, anyway. Assistant bridge engineer David Dibling said that while the bridge over the Scioto was ranked an overall “seven” the deck is rated a “four” on a scale of zero to nine.

But other roads may not have to wait for a larger rehab to gain some Complete Streets elements.

“When we rehabilitate roads and structures, it’s not just because they’re in bad condition. A lot of things we look into now are multiple modes of transportation, so a lot of our structures, we are putting shared-use paths on and stuff like that. So, we’re trying to incorporate every road out there as kind of a Complete Streets kind of ordeal,” Dibling said.

Marable said projects like these are focused on safety and reducing crashes, especially pedestrian-related crashes.

But, some do push back on Complete Streets ideas. The elements can sometimes irk people who don’t want to lose a lane for cars or parking spaces.

Still, Roseman says taking a proactive approach to planning, instead of trying to retrofit roads will be less expensive in the long run and reduce collisions with pedestrians.

“It’s still going to cost the developer or the municipality a lot more money to build that, but it’s better to build that now with the right design --- with a sidewalk, with a side path, with a bike lane, with environmental considerations, keeping the speed at a low, manageable rate. That will be a lot better for everybody,” Roseman said.

Roseman says the efforts to rehab existing roads with more space and safety features for all road users will help transform Columbus into a healthier, less car-centric city and produce a healthier way to get around.

“I just hope everybody will recognize that all travelers deserve the same rights to use a public roadway whether they be (using) an automobile, a school bus, a cyclist, a pedestrian, a dog walker, a skater, whatever,” Roseman said.

Renee Fox is a reporter for 89.7 NPR News.