Olentangy Valley News

Outcry can't stop Murphy Parkway extension

By ThisWeek Community News  • 

Assurance that traffic-calming measures will be installed pacified some residents as Powell City Council approved a preliminary development plan for the extension of Murphy Parkway last week.

At an April 16 meeting, council voted 7-0 to approve an ordinance establishing basic development requirements for the construction of an extension of Murphy Parkway, which will connect the road with South Liberty Street just east of its current terminus.

But the measure was approved only after council endured a torrent of criticism and pleas from residents of adjacent neighborhoods to scrap the project altogether.

The outpouring of public sentiment did prompt one small compromise. A portion of the ordinance stating traffic-calming measures such as speed bumps, turn restrictions, medians or other traffic restraints "may" be implemented was amended to state that some measures "shall" be implemented.

Even under the amended ordinance, a decision about which traffic-mitigation measures will be appropriate for the road is yet to be determined. Council agreed that will be decided after the parkway is finished and a traffic study is completed, assuming the project sees no other delays.

Council members initially warned against presupposing the need for traffic deterrents or extra speed-reduction measures. Certain measures, such as prohibiting left-hand turns from Murphy Parkway onto Presidential Parkway, may be little more than an inconvenience for residents if cut-through traffic never becomes a major problem.

Nevertheless, residents pleaded with council to take some precautions, citing concerns that the extension will increase traffic on residential streets and make nearby neighborhoods less safe.

The amendment was adopted following a discussion during which Councilwoman Sara Marie Brenner warned that under the original language, "We could come out of this and not institute one single traffic-calming measure."

City officials now will seek engineering and design services for the project; construction could begin as early as 2014.

Council originally was scheduled to approve the preliminary development plan for the project at a March 19 meeting, but tabled it because three council members weren't present to hear a similar outpouring of public dissent.

The extension of Murphy Parkway has been in the works for more than a decade, but not until this year was the city able to secure the necessary funding.

Officials had pledged to complete the project -- among other capital improvements -- if voters approved a 10-year, 1.8-mill property tax levy on the ballot in February. The issue passed easily.

The bypass will provide an alternate east-west route south of the Liberty Road-Powell Road intersection, officials said.

The intersection can become so backed up at rush hour that it received an "F" rating from the Ohio Department of Transportation.

At the April 16 meeting, residents repeatedly said the problem would be better addressed by adding turn lanes at the intersection.

But city officials reiterated the Murphy Parkway bypass should be in place first to serve as a detour during construction of the turn lanes. Bypasses already exist in the other three quadrants around the intersection.

"It's not a matter of choosing Murphy Parkway or the turn lanes, but rather which is done first," said city Development Director Dave Betz.

Councilman Tom Counts added: "Traffic is a terrible problem in this city and has been for a long time, and if council has done something wrong, it's that they have not been able to address that problem."

Residents addressed council for nearly two hours during the public hearing.

Sarah Minto said it will hurt the community and detract from Powell's "quaint" character.

"By extending Murphy Parkway, you will cause property values to decrease, current residents will leave Powell, and 'quaint' will become a thing of the past," she said.

Three residents spoke in favor of the extension.

"If we do not do the improvements, our property values are going to go down," said resident Evelio Rasario. "People won't want to move up here because the traffic is horrendous."

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