With continued population growth in the forecast for Wooster, city officials are moving forward with street improvement plans to alleviate traffic congestion along Church Circle during school pick-up and drop-off hours.
"We're going to widen from the school to the sharp curve [along Church Circle]," Wooster Mayor Terry Robinson told the Log Cabin Democrat on Thursday.
Plans include up to three holding lanes for traffic to alleviate traffic congestion as elementary school parents pick up and drop off their children in the mornings and afternoons.
Currently, there is barely enough room for vehicles traveling in opposite directions to pass through at the same time. Vehicles turning onto Church Circle from Highway 285 are unable to pass parents traveling on the one-lane street after turning onto Church Circle from Highway 25 to wait in the drop-off zone.
As Wooster's population continues to grow, Robinson said this has become a safety concern if there were a fire or medical issue in the area.
Officials have made improvements to several city streets in recent years, and Church Circle is the last piece of the puzzle.
"We've got to do something, the traffic is clogging up that street," Robinson said. "This is the only street left that needs something done. [The city] has fixed every [other] street here. We have tried to do what we could up until now, but the school is a mess in the mornings and afternoons. It's a safety concern. If you've got a fire down there, the fire trucks can't get in there. It's a safety factor. We've got to straighten the road out."
Plans include widening the one-lane street that currently forces drivers to pull over onto the side of the road to allow others to pass into a two-lane street with curbs and drainage features.
Project plans were slightly delayed as the city fought for eminent domain to remove a tree from the edge of a lot that sits adjacent to the school property.
As stated in its request for eminent domain, the portion of Church Circle in front of the aforementioned property "is currently a one-lane road that is overburdened due to traffic from subdivisions going to and from Wooster Schools, and as a necessary improvement to safety and traffic flow of the community and City of Wooster, the City plans to widen and straighten [Church Circle], which will encroach to the southern portion of the property, an interest in which is claimed by the defendants."
The city requested a temporary construction easement "for the immediate removal of a tree just north of [Church Circle], which currently resides on the property, prior to the construction of the building on the property, in order to avoid the situation in which the tree removal could result in damage to a building," according to court documents.
Following the approval from a circuit judge, the city has removed the tree and plans to begin work to widen the street and improve traffic flow along Church Circle and to and from Wooster Elementary School on June 1. Owners of the plot have been awarded $4,600 for the strip of land that will be used for this project.
Robinson said he expects Phase I of this street improvement, which "will straighten the street out from the school to the curve," to be completed by the time the 2019-20 school year begins.
The small-town mayor said this project has been talked about since 1989 and that he is excited it will soon take life, especially now that the city has an elementary school and will soon see several new subdivisions in the area.
Improvements to the street are possible through a partnership with city and county officials.