Record editorial: Kilby Road controversy could have been avoided
The new design of Kilby Road has made the last several weeks a bumpy ride for Summit County officials, and it has nothing to do with the quality of the pavement.
Outrage has poured in since drivers got their first look at the redone road. The most pressing complaint is that the curved design makes it difficult for cars to stay within the marked lines, presenting a potential risk for bikers using the adjacent bike lanes. Some have also questioned whether the new medians will be a hazard to drivers when snow falls in the winter.
County staffers have defended the unorthodox design, saying it has already begun to achieve its goal of slowing down drivers on a road where speeding complaints have been common over the years. At the same time, the county has been responsive to the complaints, widening the bike lane in certain sections to give bikers more room to avoid traffic.
Hopefully that solution alleviates the problem — though some bikers remain skeptical — along with drivers understanding they must take extra care. It seems likely that, in a few months, everyone will be accustomed to navigating the road.
But the controversy could have been avoided in the first place.
It’s clear from the sheer volume of surprise and frustration that the county did not do enough to involve commuters during the design phase. It held a couple of open houses to showcase plans for its summer construction projects, including the Kilby Road improvements, but needed to be more proactive in eliciting feedback from the community. County officials also should have followed up with an intensive campaign to educate people about the unusual nature of the road instead of just providing updates on the progress and impacts of the construction.
That may not have resulted in major changes to the project, but perhaps tweaks like the widened bike lanes would have been implemented earlier. At the least, fewer people would have been taken off-guard when they drove the redone stretch of road for the first time.
Frustrated residents, though, aren’t blameless. The road work was publicized in the spring leading up to the open houses, and people who frequent Kilby Road could have taken it upon themselves to become educated about the project. The county bears responsibility for not engaging commuters enough, but it would be unfair to say people who are upset with the design didn’t have an opportunity to weigh in.
Hopefully, both the county and residents learn from the controversy and avoid repeating the situation in the future. That would make the next project a much smoother ride for all involved.
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Our view: If City Hall can demonstrate that the new drop-and-load zones have made Main Street safer and less congested, it’s worth weathering the complaints of those who dislike them. If it can’t, officials ought to go back to the drawing board.