WILMINGTON — City of Wilmington leaders heard the concerns of residents and business owners, weighed the options, and Wednesday afternoon Mayor John Stanforth announced there will be no concrete medians as part of the 2020 Rombach Avenue paving project.
“After careful consideration I have instructed our engineers, as well as the Ohio Department of Transportation, to eliminate the installation of raised medians as part of the Rombach Avenue project,” said Stanforth on Wednesday. “Although I have received expert opinions from traffic engineers, as well as legal counsel, confirming the initial recommendations of the medians, I must find the balance of public safety and public feedback.
“The initial plans intended to address safety concerns and the comments received from the public early on in the planning. As the plans evolved, I continued to receive feedback from other elected officials, safety personnel, and continued conversations with impacted business owners. I want to thank those who participated in feedback and continuing the conversation.
“I have considered all positions and reached the conclusion that we cannot move forward with the Rombach Avenue project without removing the medians.”
Stanforth continued, “From the beginning, I have been committed to improving the corridor and will not allow medians to become a barrier to the overwhelming success of the project. My concern remains with left-out access turns and I will work with our engineers to study them and explore different solutions that increase public safety, to include developing an access management plan for future access evaluations.
“While the city reserves the right to install a raised median as a method for access management, I have opted to continue discussions with property owners to work with to install signage, striping and access drive approach modifications. I will continue to analyze traffic progression and other traffic issues that professional engineering solutions identify when signage and striping are not effective.
“I look forward to the tremendous opportunities Rombach Avenue and our business district will realize because of the overall success of the project.”
The project includes milling and overlay with new asphalt, nearly three miles down Rombach Avenue and Eastside Drive, including extensive full-depth repair, the mayor stated at a November meeting. The project also includes a thousand feet of new/replacement sidewalk, new water lines, new traffic signals, and safer crosswalks, particularly around the restaurants.
The News Journal reported Jan. 17 that passions were high at Thursday’s Wilmington City Council meeting during continued discussions about the project — particularly with the proposed center medians.
Safety/Service Director Brian Shidaker told members that sometime in April the council will be asked to approve a resolution from the state which would authorize the city to accept the funds for the project.
Councilmember Bill Liermann had stated, “I love the project, I like the new lights coming in … I like the resurfacing. But you’ve got to convince me the medians are needed.”
Like Liermann, councilmember Nick Eveland stated he approves of many of the project’s ideas, but had great concern over the medians.
Shidaker had said, “I think we need to work with the business owners [on Rombach] and make this work. I think there are places where a median makes sense … there are real safety concerns on Rombach Avenue where a median makes sense.”
Voices heard at forum
After detailed explanations on the Rombach Avenue paving project, most attendees who spoke at a public meeting Wednesday, Jan. 15 still objected to the center medians proposed for the 2020 work.
Local residents, business owners and officials packed the Municipal Building’s Robert Moyer Community Room for the meeting hosted by the City of Wilmington and City Council.
A majority of people who signed up to speak were local business/franchise owners who previously spoke in favor of a majority of the project — except for the center medians.
James Mayer, owner of Taco Bell on Rombach Avenue, reiterated his support of the project except for the medians. Mayer believes medians will hurt not only current businesses on Rombach Avenue, but also any future prospects.
“They are business killers,” Mayer said, adding more business owners are deterred from developing in areas with center medians.
In November, Keith Chambers, owner of the Dairy Queen on Rombach Avenue, told the city that he spoke with two county engineers about the concrete medians. According to Chambers, one of the engineers — Jim Surber from Darke County — told him, “You want to do something to really hurt businesses? Put a concrete median in the road.”
Chambers also indicated this could affect the real estate value and income tax.
“I think most of your plan is wonderful. I think it’s wonderful what’s going to happen, except for that concrete median,” he said.
Mayer also advised the loss of business and declining sales caused by the medians could lead to loss of tax revenue for the city, with less sales tax, real estate tax, and income tax revenues.
Nick Babb gave his views as a former emergency services worker.
Babb recalled if there was an accident or medical emergency, they would use the Rombach Avenue center lane to get around traffic. He told officials and attendees the mediums could cost a serious delay in emergency services personnel arriving at their destination.