A new concept for Defiance’s downtown area designed to slow down traffic and make it more pedestrian and bicycle friendly was discussed by city council’s streets and sidewalk committee Tuesday afternoon.

Jean Hartline of the firm Mannik & Smith Group, Maumee, presented the committee with an overview of how the “South Clinton Street road diet” would function through the downtown (south of the Purple Heart Bridge).

Under this concept, the street’s four lanes between Second Street and Triangle Park would be reduced to three — a northbound lane, a southbound lane and a center turn lane. The freed up space would be used for a bicycle lane and buffer zone.

The 100 and 200 blocks — between Second Street and the Maumee River — would remain four lanes, but parking on Clinton Street would be eliminated to make room for the bicycle lane and buffer zone. This parking might be compensated with more parking on side streets, Hartline indicated.

While one southbound lane would continue through the Clinton/Second intersection, two left turn lanes for southbound traffic turning east onto Second would be available to keep traffic flowing.

Officials believe the change would slow traffic in the downtown and help remove truck traffic that is passing through Defiance. Hartline’s presentation noted that 1,500 trucks use Ohio 66 (Clinton Street) each day.

Mayor Mike McCann said he’s learned that if travel becomes more difficult for trucks through Defiance, “they’ll find other ways.” He suggested investing in a portable scales in which truck weights are checked as they enter Defiance.

In reference to the road diet’s impact on traffic speeds, City Administrator Jeff Leonard called downtown Clinton Street a “drag strip.”

“The traffic patterns are fast,” he said. “People are used to timing the lights. They see the countdowns of the traffic signals. They know when they’re going to change. They might speed up to avoid the light. They’re doing numerous things to increase the speeds in the downtown area. This concept gives you the ability to slow traffic down.”

He added that the concept also would reduce noise.

Increased safety also is being cited by supporters as a benefit of the project. Hartline explained that 12 bicycle crashes and seven pedestrians crashes occurred in the downtown area between 2009-18.

However, concerns were voiced.

At-large Councilman Jill Krutsch, for example, wondered how emergency vehicles might traverse the traffic during peak times, with the downtown having only three lanes.

And At-large councilman Steve Waxler observed that Columbus’ northside, an area which Hartline highlighted as having a road diet. He said the traffic there is “terrible.”

Waxler believes that if truck traffic is not removed from downtown Defiance, traffic will only get worse with a road diet.

The Defiance Development and Visitor Bureau’s director, Kristie Mack, said she spoke to some business owners who might lose parking spaces. She said they are willing to listen to the project proposal, but want to know where the lost parking would be made up.

The estimated project cost is $592,722, including $455,940 for construction, $54,713 for construction engineering and $36,475 for preliminary engineering, according to Hartline.

She explained that the Ohio Department of Transportation would cover the entire construction cost.

City council would have to approve legislation in the future for the concept to move forward.

And At-large Councilman Joe Eureste — chairman of the streets and sidewalk committee — noted the need for engaging the public in the discussion.

McCann agreed, indicating a willingness to receive public input, although he mentioned the difficulty of convening public forums due to the coronavirus situation.

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