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Escobar plans series of summits on traffic

Rusty Nakad has lived in what is now the northern part of West Toledo for nearly a half-century, and in that time, traffic has become “worse and worse and worse.”

Travel from the 3000 block of Laskey to visit relatives north of Alexis Road or to buy lottery tickets at a favorite neighborhood carryout require careful planning.

“We have to schedule around when school is letting out, and the shift changes at [GM] Powertrain,” Mrs. Nakad said yesterday morning.

She offered her opinion at a news conference, where city councilman Louis Escobar announced an Aug. 1 neighborhood meeting that he said would be the first of a series of “Traffic Town Hall Meetings” throughout Toledo to discuss traffic congestion across the city.

Mr. Escobar chose the corner of Alexis Road and Lewis Avenue - recently declared by State Farm Insurance to be Toledo's most dangerous intersection and the second worst in Ohio - for his announcement.

The Aug. 1 meeting will begin at 6:30 p.m. in Greenwood School, 760 Northlawn Dr. Mr. Escobar, who is an at-large member of council. said meetings will be scheduled in other city council districts and will be part of a broader “Traffic Summit” he intends to call.

During the last 11 months, a $1.95 million city project involved widening Lewis to four lanes plus turning lanes through the Alexis intersection - a project city officials hope will reduce the accident rate there. With construction complete, a Toledo police department contractor soon will install automated cameras to enforce red lights there.

Ramona Trujillo, a South Toledo resident who drives to Alexis to shop for produce, said the Lewis widening has helped traffic “a little bit, but not much.” The biggest problem is getting in and out of the numerous business driveways, she said.

Mr. Escobar said the recent improvements are a step in the right direction, but are not part of a citywide traffic management strategy.

“We're doing it piecemeal - a Band-Aid approach,” the councilman said. “We need to look at [traffic] comprehensively.”

Noting that city officials recently secured $2 million in state funding for street improvements in the Franklin Park-Westgate area, Mr. Escobar said he will search for sources of $10 million, which is roughly $2 million per council district, though it might not be distributed exactly evenly.

Asked what more might be done at Alexis and Lewis, Mr. Escobar suggested additional turn lanes and high-tech traffic signals as possibilities.

Councilman Wade Kapszukiewicz, in whose district the corner is located, said Alexis and Lewis was chosen for the news conference because of the State Farm report.

After Alexis-Lewis, the insurer named the corner of Central Avenue and Secor Road as No. 2 in the city and No. 5 in the state for accidents - much to the surprise of city police, who said Central-Secor had Toledo's 13th-highest accident rate last year.

State Farm, whose statewide Top 5 has included only Toledo and Columbus cities, conceded that its analysis was based on insurance claims and that Toledo and Columbus are where the insurer has particularly large shares of the insurance market.

State Farm has offered $20,000 per intersection for engineering studies of the intersections named in its report. Mr. Escobar said that and other money will be pursued.

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