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Toledo street session draws questions that dig far below the surface

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Robin Whitney, left, Toledo’s public utilities commissioner of engineering services, talks with John Clement of West Toledo during the first public forum to review street planning and address residents’ questions and concerns. They met at the Sanger branch of the Toledo-Lucas County Public Library.

THE BLADE/KATIE RAUSCH
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Pleas for repaving various streets and complaints about poor drainage and potholes were common themes during the first of a series of city meetings about Toledo’s streets programs Tuesday, but some participants arrived with deeper philosophical questions.

Avonhurst Road resident Tim Schloz, among others, wanted to know if city council District 5 gets street improvements commensurate with the revenue the city gets from district taxpayers.

“We fund a great amount of money and revenue stream to the city,” Mr. Schloz said during the session at the Sanger Branch Library on Central Avenue, less than a mile from a street-reconstruction project on Secor Road that will be one of Toledo’s biggest street improvements this year.

Mr. Schloz questioned in particular why city officials at the meeting could identify only a handful of streets in the district that will be repaved or rebuilt during the next few years.

Don O’Connor, a division of engineering services administrator, explained that not every street to be worked on even next year has been determined; the streets listed in a handout are those for which the city has firm plans.

He and Robin Whitney, the commissioner of engineering services, both said that the city has never attempted to distribute street projects on the basis of tax revenue. Recent history instead shows, they said, that streets spending has been evenly distributed among Toledo’s six council districts over the long term.

Others among the more than three dozen neighborhood residents present said they are already seeing traffic diverted onto side streets and parallel routes such as Douglas and Talmadge roads because of the $5.4 million Secor reconstruction project between Central Avenue and Monroe Street that began Sunday night.

One speaker urged officials to consider adjusting signal timings on Douglas and Monroe to ease alternate-route congestion, something transportation commissioner Dennis Lechlak said “will be looked at as the project starts to progress and people start picking the routes that they’re going to take.”

Others called for more police presence, or temporary speed-enforcement cameras, to curb cut-through traffic.

Corey Road resident John Clement, meanwhile, urged city officials to consider modern roundabouts when it plans intersection upgrades, instead of widening pavement to add turn lanes.

This is the second year Toledo officials plan to hold meetings on street maintenance and construction in each of the six city council districts. The second meeting in this year’s series is Thursday at the East Toledo Family Center, 1020 Varland Ave.

Subsequent meetings will be March 20 at the Frederick Douglass Community Center, 1001 Indiana Ave.; March 21 at Our Lady of Perpetual Help Church, Sherwood Avenue and Anthony Wayne Trail; April 1 at Bethlehem Baptist Church, 1430 W. Bancroft St.; and April 2 at the Point Place Branch Library, 2727 117th St. Each meeting is to last two hours.

Mayor Mike Bell said this year’s plans for 61 miles of street resurfacing and repaving are a credit to Toledo’s improving finances.

“We couldn’t do this three or four years ago — we couldn’t even think of doing this,” said the mayor, who is up for re-election in November. “We’re starting to turn the corner, in a good way.”

Contact David Patch at: dpatch@theblade.com or 419-724-6094.

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