Managing access to the Kroger supermarket on Monroe Street dominated discussion last night during a 2 1/2-hour public meeting concerning Sylvania's "Gateway Plan" for beautifying its primary entrance.
A "preferred alternative" developed for city officials by Ann Arbor-based consultant JJR recommended eliminating left turns at the store's Monroe entrance, with all traffic approaching on westbound Monroe directed to use a store entrance on Harroun Road.
A computer simulation shown by representatives from Tetra Tech, a Columbus traffic-engineering consultant, said that with proper coordination between the existing signal at Monroe and Harroun and a new signal at the Kroger entrance on Harroun, traffic on Monroe would flow considerably better than it does now while the supermarket would retain necessary access.
Overall, JJR representative Cheryl Zuellig said, the proposed conversion of Monroe to a divided boulevard with landscaping and wider sidewalks would help attract new residents and businesses to Sylvania.
But a traffic engineer retained by Kroger said combining Kroger traffic with vehicles that turn left from Monroe to Harroun would create an "almost unmanageable" left-turn traffic volume.
Kroger's Monroe entrance "siphons off traffic that would otherwise cripple the Monroe and Harroun intersection," Jean Hartline, a senior engineer with Mannik & Smith Group Inc., said, adding that the space on Harroun between Monroe and the other store entrance might be incapable of handling the left-turn load there as well.
Jeffrey Bieber, a Kroger Co. real-estate manager, said forcing trucks to use the Harroun entrance would create congestion on the streets and conflicts in the store's parking lot. While Kroger supports Sylvania's beautification, he said, such support is "not to the detriment of our customers' safety or the viability of store operations."
Eliminating left turns at the Monroe entrance would affect one of two Monroe driveways to Toledo Memorial Park. The cemetery's easterly entrance is its busiest, Ms. Hartline said.
"We like the Gateway project. It's great, it's beautiful," Ms. Hartline said. But it shouldn't be done in a way that is detrimental to traffic flow and business access in the area, she said.
No one spoke on behalf of a BP filling station next to the Kroger store, but that station's owners also have objected to the elimination of left-turn exits from their business.
Ms. Zuellig said backed-up traffic on Monroe significantly restricts left turns in that area, but noted that the plan preserves left-turn access into the filling station, which accounts for most of its customers.
The conclusion of Ms. Hartline's presentation was met with applause from several dozen of the 60 or so people in the audience last night in Sylvania City Council chambers, some of whom questioned the wisdom of eliminating left turns from Monroe into the supermarket.
Toward the end of her presentation, Ms. Zuellig outlined a variation of the "preferred alternative" that would preserve the stoplight at Kroger, but that didn't satisfy other audience members who questioned the Gateway Plan's financial merit.
"I love beautification as much as everybody else, but who's paying for this?" asked Karen Emery, a city resident.
Ken Marciniak, a local resident and real-estate agent, said that while he favors beautifying the ramp areas around the U.S. 23 interchange at Monroe, spending money to widen and divide Monroe following a recent resurfacing would be wasteful.
"This project is a boondoggle," he said. "The cost I can't even fathom."
Robert Heetfield, another city resident, particularly derided a proposal for sidewalks eight feet wide along Monroe and overall said the plan is "the most ridiculous thing I've ever heard of."
Mark Luetke, chairman of city council's Gateway committee, said project costs have not yet been calculated because "council has not made any decisions at all about what this project will finally look like."
Anything that is done pursuant to the plan would be done over a period of years, "out of a series of city budgets," he said.
Council has scheduled a committee-of-the-whole meeting for 5 p.m. today to discuss the testimony given during the meeting last night.
Contact David Patch
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