By Frank Lewis
The Tom Russell Glass and Mirror Company, at 425 Front St., in Portsmouth, is one of those multi-generational businesses with a strong attachment to the community. That is one of the reasons he became part of a discussion about the possible one-way designation of Front Street to accommodate the Connex bike trail plan at a public hearing held at Monday night’s Portsmouth City Council meeting.
“Our family has eight parcels along Front Street where we make our living,” Russell said. “The shop has been there since 1985. Mom and dad have owned property there since 1977. We oppose the one way. We were there before the murals, so we know the impact of what parking and so forth can be.”
Some of those who spoke in favor of the changeover cited safety issues with the current flow both ways of the traffic for people who walk along the pathway that covers the Portsmouth Murals. Russell took exception to that reference.
“Everybody says safety,” Russell said. “Where’s the accident reports? Where’s the violations for speeding traffic? Where are the fatalities? Let’s justify this by paperwork by showing on paper why this has to be done. Everybody says safety - show us why this would be so much safer than what it is now.”
Wendi Waugh spoke in favor of the change and told Council she represents several different sectors. Waugh is the Scioto County Health Coalition fitness chair, the director of community health and wellness at Southern Ohio Medical Center and is vice president of Connex.
“I’m a cyclist. I’m a runner. I’m a walker and I’m a mommy,” Waugh said. “I want to be able to bring my children down to the murals and let them ride their bikes along the mural floodwall safely.”
Waugh said it is not her intention to interrupt any of the economic viability of the city or businesses.
“I believe we can get a solution here that can allow for truck delivery and different things,” Waugh said. “The traffic we talked about is not overwhelming that we cannot allow provisions for truck deliveries.”
Francesca Hartop spoke to the safety issue as well.
“I’ve spent a lot of time on Front Street. I have property on Front Street. I live on Second Street and I face it all the time,” Hartop said. “There are a lot of school buses that come through there and if you’re trying to corral 60 kids to look at murals and traffic coming in one direction as opposed to two it’s a big deal. And you look at the people who come down their with their families. They’re standing in the road to get pictures. They have to get closer. They’re looking at the cats on the murals. They are not paying a lot of attention to traffic. From my experience, running and walking that all the time, already about two-thirds of the traffic goes one direction. I don’t think we’re losing all that much by saying let’s make it go all that way. At least it’s only one direction I’m looking for traffic.”
Joni Fearing said there is an advantage to the current two way traffic situation.
“Right now it’s easy to pass,” Fearing said. “If you have to pass either on my bike or car - people wave and are friendly, you’re able to get by; everything’s okay and you just go about your business.”
Russell told the Daily Times, even though he operates a business on that street, no one has contacted him about the proposal. He said he learned about it in a story in the newspaper.
Barb Bradbury, who has been the face of Connex in it’s early stages addressed Council from two perspectives - her personal experience working at Shawnee State University, and the other as a member of Connex.
“Personally I feel that the murals are the gem of Portsmouth,” Bradbury said. “I’m really proud of that. I feel that making Front Street one way would make it even more special. It will make the flow of the traffic go with the chronology of the murals. Right now if someone comes down into town and they head over to Front Street they really don’t know where they are with the chronology of the murals and my designating Front Street one way beginning at Washington (Street) and going to Madison (Street) it goes right with the murals. I think that makes a lot of sense.”
Frank Lewis can be reached at 740-353-3101, Ext. 252, or on Twitter @FrankLewispdt.