Crossing questions: Local physician, wife seek review of sidewalk plan

A Wapakoneta couple brought their concerns regarding a proposed sidewalk path which crosses a busy city street in the middle of the block — a concern, a city councilor says, that is to be addressed by city administrators and school officials.

Gwynne and Dr. Thomas Freytag voiced their concerns with the Safe Routes to School sidewalk plan which includes a crosswalk crossing Lincoln Highway, or Ohio 501, at Liberty Street. The Freytags discussed the issue with Wapakoneta City Council members during Monday’s meeting.

“My understanding is phase 1 is approved and going to take place and phase 2 is out there as they look for safe routes to schools,” Freytag said. “Looking at that plan (Phase 1), I was wondering if it shouldn’t be revisited in the sense that St. Joseph School is no longer a player in these plans. I noticed there is a planned sidewalk going down (Ohio) 501 to St. Joe’s and then it crosses the street.

“My concern as I look at that, and I have been county coroner now for 28 years and I am concerned about safety, is there is going to be three crossings across 501 — one at what I lovingly call ‘Malfunction Junction,’ the other one at Redskin Trail where there is a light and then there is one going down Warren and crossing over to St. Joe and then crossing over 501 where the pizza place and Rick’s 501 is,” he said. “I was wondering if there shouldn’t be some reconsideration of that concept since St. Joseph School is no longer in existence.”

Freytag said lights at Redskin Trail and “Malfunction Junction,” which is the five-way at the intersection of Defiance and Hamilton streets, can assist people when they are crossing the street, but there are no crossing lights in the middle of the block at Liberty Street.

He questioned the rationale behind the crossing and said it may be safer for people to walk to the traffic lights and cross the street.

Gwynne Freytag called the crossing at Liberty Street “the sidewalk to nowhere” with the closing of St. Joseph School.

“If it had a purpose and a place then that is one thing, but it is there and I don’t know where it is going,” Gwynne Freytag said. “We live in Wapakoneta and we are concerned  and we don’t want any child hurt by anything, obviously, but I think we need to be a little more prudent about where we are putting crosswalks and making sure we put them in the right place, especially when it is tied to the Safe Routes to School grant.”

A couple of years ago, Engineering Superintendent Mary Ruck applied for $500,000 in Safe Routes to School grant money at the behest of city administrators and city council. The city received $434,000 in Ohio Department of Transportation (ODOT) grant money to construct sidewalks from Wapakoneta High School along Redskin Trail and Wapakoneta Elementary School through Bramblewood Estates as part of phase 1.

Councilor-at-large Tom Finkelmeier Jr. said bids for phase 1 are to be opened next week with construction to start soon thereafter.

Finkelmeier explained the original plan called to continue with the existing crosswalk from Grandview Plaza across Defiance Street to St. Joseph School and then to construct an enhanced crosswalk from St. Joseph School across Lincoln Highway to Liberty Street so the sidewalk could tie-in with sidewalks in the Bramblewood subdivision.

Sidewalks in Bramblewood Estates connect to Wapakoneta Elementary School and Wapakoneta High School.

“Subsequent to that decision they have closed St. Joseph School and there may or may not be an owner who would permit a sidewalk crossing at the property,” Finkelmeier told the Wapakoneta Daily News if a private business purchased the school property. “If that east-west crossing is lost, we will look at adding sidewalks around the former St. Joseph School property.”

With that crossing part of phase 1 and the construction close to starting, Finkelmeier said city and school administrators could review the sidewalk plan and make a decision regarding the crossing.

“With Phase 1 of the Safe Routes to School plan, the only review that is going on at this time is the Engineering Department, city administrators and school administrators are going to suggest some additions to the plan as locally funded initiatives to enhance what ODOT has funded,” Finkelmeier said. “Phase 1 construction starts in July and goes out for bid next week.”

The proposed city plan would be to install sidewalks along Lincoln Highway and connect to the sidewalks in the Bramblewood Subdivision.

Earlier this year, Mayor Rodney Metz and Safety-Service Director Bill Rains shared with city councilors the fact the city is set to receive $477,000 from the program to install sidewalks. This latest round, or phase 2, would be to install sidewalks along Laurel Street Gardenia, Magnolia, Primrose, Poppy and Carnation drives.