Construction Begins July 5 on Your Revitalized Downtown Findlay
Heart of the city to become a true destination through improved vitality, safety and function
By Sarah Mayle
When construction of the Transportation Alternative Program (TAP) is completed this fall, those who make their way to downtown Findlay will see a city revitalized – a world class downtown that complements the world class headquarters of Marathon Petroleum Corporation (MPC) and one that is safer, more practical, and beautiful to see.
“This is definitely going to look good and improve the overall quality of life for those who live, work and play downtown,” explained Findlay Mayor Lydia Mihalik. “It will completely transform the downtown, making it pleasant and safe, which is the original intent. Downtown will be a destination, not a way to pass through.”
As part of the project, Main Street will be newly paved; downtown alleys will be refurbished; bump-outs will be added to each of the curbs at all of the main intersections; five mid-block crosswalks with Pedestrian Refuge Areas, planters, and landscaping will be constructed between intersections; an irrigation system will be installed for the new landscaping, along with improved lighting and sound; new wayfinding signage will be erected; and a shared lane bike path connecting the University of Findlay and downtown will be built.
Construction on the $2.5 million project through the Ohio Department of Transportation (ODOT) will begin July 5 and is slated for completion in late November. “The TAP is primarily funded by ODOT with MPC generously donating the rest,” Mihalik said.
Planning for the project began when leaders from the Findlay-Hancock County Economic Development (ED) office arranged for an engineering study of downtown Findlay. The intent was to complement a $90 million construction project announced by MPC to build the MPLX headquarters, an administrative building, two parking garages and Marathon Green space, all downtown. Just as MPC did, leaders wanted to bolster downtown by improving it aesthetically, opening the door to new development, and making it more modern, practical and safe.
ED worked closely with ODOT and Jobs Ohio, a private, non-profit designed to drive job creation and new capital investment. City leaders then organized several public meetings to discuss the changes downtown, garner citizen input and put together a final project. Findlay City Council approved the project unanimously after a few tweaks to the initial plan.
“MPC is proud to be a long-standing corporate citizen of Findlay,” said MPC’s Expansion Project Manager Don Malarky. “We share a common interest with city leadership in creating a downtown area that improves pedestrian safety and encourages continued revitalization. Such improvements will help MPC continue to attract and retain professionals to the Findlay area.”
Enhanced Safety and Appearance with Bump-outs and Mid-Block Crossings
City leaders discovered when reviewing engineering study results that Findlay is home to two of the most dangerous crash intersections for pedestrians within a district covering eight counties. “One reason for the hazard,” Mihalik explained, “is the width of crossings at those intersections, another is visibility. Pedestrians are exposed for a longer period of time to cross four lanes,” Mihalik said. “Also when vehicles are turning eastbound or westbound, they are unable to see individuals or were distracted when crashes happened.”
To remedy the problem and slow traffic, designers planned for bump-outs and mid-block crossings on Main Street from Center Street to Lima Avenue. A bump-out is an extension, or widening at the curb that shortens a pedestrian’s walk across the street. It also improves a pedestrian’s ability to see traffic.
Five mid-block crossings, with Pedestrian Refuge Areas – a place halfway across to street to stop – will also improve safety and accessibility to the businesses of Main Street. The distinct crossings will be a conspicuous treatment of asphalt, will feature a raised median area and vegetation, and will be located throughout downtown between Center Street and Lima Avenue. Pedestrians using the crosswalk will have the right of way.
“Even though we’ll have the bump-outs at the corners, it’s not going to impact parking, because they are going in areas where you can’t park anyway,” said Brian Thomas, Findlay Director of Public Service and City Engineer. “The mid-block crossings are the same way. And as far as the refuge areas go, there will still be two lanes of traffic in each direction. We’re not going to lose any parking or travel lanes in either direction, and safety vehicles will be able to cross without a problem.”
All trees currently downtown will be removed, and new trees, with the appropriate size and root structure for an urban landscape, will be planted at the intersections and on the curbs at mid-block crossings, along with shrubs and flowers.
“By moving the trees to intersections, people will be able to see businesses, they’ll have room to walk, and there will be more room for things like sidewalk cafes,” Thomas said. “The entire purpose of this is to make Main Street more pedestrian friendly.”
Motorists or truck drivers who want a quicker route traveling north and south through town are urged to use Blanchard Street and Western Avenue. Construction will also begin later this year to widen both Hancock County Roads 212 and 236 to four lanes to provide an alternative – especially for semi trucks – to avoid downtown. The road widening is not funded by TAP, but is part of an overall city plan.
Bolstered Lighting, Sound and Wayfinding
Along with increased mobility and safety, the TAP features new lighting, sound and signage.
While traffic lights will remain the same, Mihalik said all of the newly planted trees will have two uplights, which will have the capability to change color.
“Depending on the time of year, that means we can put downtown in the season,” Mihalik said.
“A new sound system, with speakers on the ground instead of high on the buildings as they are now, will be much more conducive to listening.”
Thomas added, “It won’t have to be as loud, and it will be much more consistent.”
Improved wayfinding throughout downtown will help visitors and residents alike get around more efficiently.
“The new signage will point people in the direction of our major attractions, parking lots, where the municipal building or courthouse is… If you are new to town it should be easier to find a particular location and will look better and more cohesive,” Mihalik explained.
The Bike Path and More
On Cory Street north from Lima Avenue to Frazer Street, a shared-lane bike path will be constructed. Thomas said the project will be a “nice facelift to that corridor.”
“All of the asphalt will be repaved and repainted, and new curbs will be put in where they’re needed on Cory.”
Mihalik added, “This is an effort to connect the university to downtown, making it more accessible for students.”
Also as part of the project, downtown alleys one block east and west of Main Street from Lima Avenue north to the river (but not at MPC), are to be repaved and repaired. New manholes throughout downtown will be put in place, and an irrigation system will be installed to keep all new vegetation thriving.
In the Meantime
Mihalik said organizers for events that normally occur downtown in the summer have been proactive, looking for alternative locations this year, and the city has assisted in the process.
Mihalik said to keep an eye on media outlets for more information closer to the time of events.
As for the construction itself, Mihalik hopes the means to the end won’t be too disruptive.
“I don’t foresee all of Main Street to be torn up all at once,” she said. “There will be some lane closures for short periods of time, but nothing extensive. And it’ll maybe a little noisy and dusty.”