The City of Columbus is partaking in two major city initiatives that will shape innovative, safe and inclusive mobility planning
By Jennifer L. Gallagher
Like communities all across the country, the City of Columbus in Ohio is hard at work to ensure the safety, health and well-being of residents during this unprecedented health crisis. The Department of Public Service has consistently continued to deliver essential city services our residents rely on daily — from refuse collection and street maintenance to progressing many impactful infrastructure projects that enhance transportation and mobility in Columbus.
In spite of the pandemic, and in addition to our uninterrupted delivery of vital essential services, the department is playing a leadership role in two major city initiatives launched this year.
Robust data collection and working groups’ efforts focused on safe streets, safe people, safe speeds and safe vehicles will help shape our action plan by the end of 2020.
Vision Zero Columbus and LinkUS Mobility Corridors are critically important to the future of transportation and mobility in our fast-growing metropolitan region.
These collaborative initiatives with city transportation and other key partners, including the Central Ohio Transit Authority and Mid-Ohio Regional Planning Commission, will shape innovative, safe and inclusive mobility planning.
Columbus Mayor Andrew J. Ginther often stresses that mobility is the great equalizer. As Columbus and Central Ohio prepare for a projected population of 3 million people by 2050, it is critical that we further elevate safety and embrace infrastructure improvements focused less on car-centric transportation and more on mobility alternatives to better meet the needs of all who use our transportation system.
The city launched Vision Zero Columbus in March, making the protection of human lives the single highest priority of our transportation system. Of course safety for all system users is a priority for us. Yet, we can advance further with a Vision Zero framework to eliminate all fatalities and serious injuries from crashes on city roadways.
Vision Zero will look at our city transportation system holistically, examining safety from all points of view. We will determine how our system can be made safer through strategic, data-driven approaches to engineering, enforcement, education, evaluation and community engagement. We will be mindful of equity and factors that impact mobility options for people in all our neighborhoods.
Though COVID-19 has caused us to rethink our community engagement approach, we have pivoted to virtual public involvement to connect. Residents are using the map on the Vision Zero Columbus website to pinpoint locations of traffic safety concerns. Robust data collection and working groups’ efforts focused on safe streets, safe people, safe speeds and safe vehicles will help shape our action plan by the end of 2020.
The plan will identify measures we can take to prevent crash-related fatalities and serious injuries. Improvements may range from short-term strategies such as better signage and pavement markings to longer-term improvements like redesigning roadways to enhance safety, expanding educational programs, and changing city policies and legislation.
Safety improvements already in the works support our Vision Zero mindset. With awarded safety grant funding, the Department will soon launch a pedestrian safety awareness project to reduce the number of pedestrian crashes along one of the city’s high-volume traffic areas, the Cleveland Avenue corridor. The multi-mile corridor stretching to downtown has a mix of residences, businesses, churches, schools and social services, and high vehicle, pedestrian and transit usage.
This outreach campaign will also focus on educating corridor users on specific pedestrian crossing improvements when they are constructed at seven intersections along this Cleveland Avenue stretch.
LinkUS is another major initiative the City of Columbus launched this summer with our transportation planning partners. This collaborative effort will provide a complete mobility system along key regional transportation and development corridors, including high capacity and advanced rapid transit, new technology solutions, bicycle and pedestrian improvements, and new housing and job opportunities.
LinkUS supports the city’s ongoing efforts to drive equity and economic vitality through mobility planning that connects residents to opportunities and resources throughout our community. Research shows a strong link between transportation mobility and individuals’ ability to increase their social and economic well-being—and we are working to meet the mobility needs of people as the Columbus region’s population grows to a projected 3 million by 2050. Stakeholder and public engagement are essential parts of LinkUS.
The Department is spearheading the first corridor initiative under the LinkUS umbrella program. The Northwest Corridor Mobility Study is in progress and provides an opportunity for our department, partners and affected communities to develop a shared vision and work toward advancing solutions that address transportation challenges in this corridor with high growth potential presents.
The Northwest Corridor covers an area along Olentangy River Road that stretches from the north near suburban Worthington to Broad Street downtown. It includes the Ohio State University West Campus and many major employers.
The Northwest Corridor study focuses on strategies for high capacity transit, enhanced bicycle and pedestrian connectivity, and new transportation technologies. Strategies are being identified for improving mobility options to make high quality affordable housing, employment, education and healthcare more accessible.
As unprecedented as 2020 has been municipal government and for residents, the Columbus Department of Public Service continues to lead innovative, progressive transportation and mobility infrastructure planning that will support the needs of all who live and work in our vibrant metropolitan region.
Jennifer L. Gallagher is the director for the Columbus Department of Public Service