Wednesday, June 03, 2009

"just say no" or "just say yes" to Western Reserve Road widening?

A recent article in the Business-Journal with the title "Next Hot Spot? Western Reserve Corridor" examined the anticipated acceleration of new commercial and residential properties, especially as this east-west road south of the existing suburban population core is widened by the county.

The chief deputy engineer of Mahoning County discusses the project, explaining the phases of the widening, and the ongoing negotiations with property owners to secure the right-of-way.

In terms of future planning and expending public resources in the long-term, one may ask if widening Western Reserve Road is the best use of funds.

On one hand, the region's population is predicted to shrink by 15% over the next twenty years. We will have less people, but our urbanized footprint is growing rapidly.

We all see how vacancies along route 224 in boardman are increasing, and one can imagine the pattern will only be accelerated as the shopping infrastructure ages. What happened to Midlothian Blvd in the city in recent decades may happen to route 224 in the suburbs during the next few decades.

County money today is being spent on creating more infrastructure. Future county money (and your taxes) will then be spent on future maintenance such as snow removal and repaving this additional infrastructure in the years to come. Meanwhile, the existing infrastructure and suburbs are more neglected as resources are shifted.

One the other hand
, you can get from Western Reserve Road to Cranberry Township in Pennsylvania in less than 45 minutes. If the future destiny of parts of the Youngstown metro region is to be a bedroom community for Pittsburgh, housing on Western Reserve Road offers the shortest commute via the OH-PA turnpike and its existing system of exits. Widening Western Reserve may get more people into Mahoning County and Ohio.

what do you think?

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(historical note: Western Reserve Road was the southern boundary of both the Connecticut Western Reserve and Trumbull County. When Mahoning County was eventually formed, a chunk came from north of the road (from Trumbull) and a chunk from south of the road (from the already existing Columbiana County). Because of the different surveying methods used on either side of the road, the size of the townships differed on either side of Western Reserve Road and thus, Mahoning County today has two sizes of townships - resulting in its unique shape.


Tyler said...

Did not know that about the county line. Thanks for today's lesson!

PintofStout said...

As a former surveyor in the area and a dabbler in history, I have always found the original land subdivisions in Ohio - and the various systems used to further subdivide - to be quite fascinating. Some info here and here.

Also, it would seem to me that Cranberry Township is also a bedroom community for Pittsburgh consisting of mostly shopping and housing. So would Youngstown be a guest bedroom community 45 minutes from another bedroom and 75 minutes from downtown (without traffic)?

Diggitt said...

I realize that the building industry always claims that more and more and more new building is the best thing for the economy. In Youngstown, that's always been the loudest voice.

But all the economic expansion of the past left behind was messes that cost dearly to clean up ... or which don't get cleaned up at all.

By far the more environmentally responsible choice is to revitalize 224. In my lifetime 224 had farmland along both sides. Just imagine a future in which Western Reserve Road looks like 224 does today -- well, that's what's down the pike without environmentally thoughtful planning. Surely the Youngstown area has had enough of building future slums for the benefit of a developer and a few years of building trades jobs.

How much asphalt does any region need, anyway? The Youngstown area had loads of roadways. When I was a kid, our drive from Poland to the north side took 45 minutes or more. Now you can do it in 10 or 12. The roadway system may need refurbishing, but all the connections are there to get Pittsburgh commuters a few miles even further north.

Planners in the region may have a few years left of being able to bend communities to their will. Municipalities must remember that once you've given a developer permission for something, you can't take it back. He can go broke and sell the property to another developer who isn't as much of a visionary, and then the community is stuck, having traded a vision for solid permits.

Clearer green thinking is just around the corner. What is paved over today will dump oily water into waterways leading to the Great Lakes and Ohio River for the next hundred years, costing more and more in cleanups for the whole country. Does Youngstown really need to continue its past short-sighted thinking? If the economy's in the tank and someone comes along with a bright, cheery vision that will lift all boats, it's likely that the vision is cheery because it's unreal.

Janko said...

@PintofStout: very cool. thanks for the contributions.

Cranberry Township, while being Pittsburgh sprawl itself, is also becoming a hub for the Pittsburgh technology community.

A Pittsburgh blogger and I were recently discussing Westinghouse's mass move from Monroeville to Cranberry.

A simple thought is that it takes less time to get from Youngstown to Cranberry than to get from some parts of the Pittsburgh region (through traffic) to Cranberry.

And maybe Mahoning County can take advantage of that.

PintofStout said...

"A simple thought is that it takes less time to get from Youngstown to Cranberry than to get from some parts of the Pittsburgh region (through traffic) to Cranberry."

This is certainly true! Simply trying to go south out of Cranberry will usually meet congestion, making it a hassle to get to the north side or downtown. Anything south and east in the city becomes a time-consuming trek. I live in extreme SE Mahoning County and work near the airport, commuting through Beaver County. Even traffic coming this way seems to be picking up on the future I-376 corridor (PA-60).

Beyond the incubator downtown, is Youngstown in competition for any of this technology industry?