Many business owners along Massillon Road aren’t against roundabouts, but they have several concerns about the impacts construction will have on their business.
Green Pav’s Creamery owner Nik Pappas isn’t sure his location can survive several years of Massillon Road being under construction.
“Five roundabouts in a one-mile stretch in a city with a 20,000 population is excessive,” Pappas said. “I love roundabouts, but not five in a short radius.”
Next year, Green will begin construction on Massillon Road north of Interstate 77, which is being referred to the Massillon Road north project.
Roundabouts will be installed at three intersections on Massillon Road; state Route 619, Stein Road and Raber Road. The road will also be widened to two lanes in each direction and a center median will be installed to prevent left turns. Anyone wishing to make a left turn in the corridor will need to go to the nearest roundabout and come back.
Construction is expected to begin in the spring of 2020 and be completed late in 2021.
Following the completion of the north project, construction could begin as early as 2022 to construct roundabouts at Massillon Road and Corporate Woods and Massillon Road and Boettler Road intersections.
The projects south of Interstate 77 have business owners, especially small business owners, concerned.
Pappas, who organized a meeting with business owners and the city recently, said he has heard horror stories from others about the impact construction can have on a business.
Green Mayor Gerard Neugebauer said plans of improving several intersections south of Interstate 77 goes back to previous mayor Dick Norton in a study done under his administration. Alternative ways to improve the corridor were explored, but it was determined Massillon Road would need to be widened to nine lanes.
Neugebauer said the bridge for Interstate 77 isn’t wide enough underneath for nine lanes and said there would be more impact to property owners along Massillon Road because of all the right-of-way needed.
The city has already secured 80 percent federal funding for the two roundabouts on Massillon Road south of the interstate.
He said with construction on the north side starting next year, traffic will always be maintained.
“The city would never reroute traffic form Massillon Road to Arlington Road,” Neugebauer said. “That is not part of the plan and never will be.”
Pappas believes Massillon Road has periods when it is congested especially during the morning and afternoon rush hours but added that it is not gridlocked now.
Attorney David Mucklow raised concerns about chokepoints on either side of I-77, where traffic signals are expected to remain, if the roundabouts are all installed.
City Engineer Paul Pickett said the problem isn’t so much the traffic signals near the interstate ramps, but the intersections south of there where traffic cannot get through quick enough, causing cars to stack up.
Neugebauer and Pickett both explained the possibility of one day Forest Lake Drive connecting to Fortuna Drive and also connecting to Arlington Road near Southwood Drive. These connections would be driven by a developer and are not likely to happen soon.
Pappas suggested to do the north improvements and see if traffic eases up any before starting the southern part. Neugebauer said the north section doesn’t have near the volume of cars the southern portion has.
Business owners asked about doing more of the work at night to have less impact on traffic. Pickett said paving at night is commonly done, but not other aspects of construction.
“We can’t shut down Massillon Road,” Neugebauer said.
He said traffic will be maintained during the southern project too and access to all businesses will be maintained.
Russ Chambers, the owner of The Bistro of Green, said he was upset he wasn’t notified about the upcoming project. Neugebauer said the city notified property owners but should have gone to each individual business. He said this is something the city needs to improve on.
Acme President Nick Albrecht said if there could be a gap between the north project and the south project instead of starting one right after another.
Neugebauer said that is something that could be considered.
Albrecht also encouraged the city not to do work during October, November and December, some of the busiest months for businesses.
“Don’t start anything then if you have any control,” Albrecht said.
General Manager for the Twisted Olive Scott Swaldo stressed the importance of communication not only from the city’s perspective but for business owners to help their customers get there. He also encouraged extra signage to help customers.
Former councilman James Ahlstrom said he has many concerns about the impact on the business.
“We are not disputing the roundabouts,” Ahlstrom said. “There are going to be impacts to small business. Just because there is access doesn’t mean anything.”
He said he wouldn’t drive some of his cars on dirt entrances to get to businesses.
“They are going to lose business,” Ahlstrom said. “Some may go out of business because of this.”
Neugebauer said the city can’t do anything financially for the businesses.
One business owner who has gone through the construction process is Chris Maggiore, who owns Jersey’s Sports Pub on state Route 619. He said the closure of the intersection of state Route 619 and Pickle Road for a roundabout to be installed impacted his business.
“There was a 10 to 11 week period lunches were down 80 to 90 percent,” Maggiore said.
He said his staff took a hit because lunch is normally a busy time for them.
“Green is a great city and I love it here,” Maggiore said. “But that was very painful.”
He said the closure was expected to be eight weeks and it turned out to be 11.
This story was also published in The Suburbanite. www.thesuburbanite.com