ALLEN COUNTY — According to the 2040 Long Range Transportation Plan Update, the county will need $538 million to meet its transportation needs in the next two decades despite the region’s stagnant population.
The plan notes the number of cars on Allen County roads has remained mostly constant from 2007 to 2016, but the number of vehicles registered in the county has dropped by roughly five percent. In other words, the amount of traffic has stayed the same, but vehicles are not sitting in Allen County driveways.
At the same time, the city population is leaking its residents while areas outside of the city proper make up the difference.
The combination of these trends foresees a commuter future where Allen County’s “vehicle miles traveled,” or VMTs, will shoot up to 1.32 billion — a roughly 12 percent increase from the county’s current numbers.
That uptick in traffic coming in from outside will make 81.7 miles of roads within Allen County need some form of construction to update its level of service.
Regional municipalities, however, are already taking note.
Put together by the Lima-Allen County Regional Planning Commission with input by elected officials and other political players, the 2018 update to the long-range transportation plan tracks trends to understand what projects should be pushed forward to deal with the county’s future.
In total, the plan identifies 137 potential projects throughout the county that deal with tomorrow’s problems. The estimated total cost of all 137 is $538 million, but the plan should help convince state and federal government to foot the bill.
“We intended to provide the rationale to the use of federal funds, and we tried check that box,” said Thom Mazur, commission director.
Undertaken every five years, the update doesn’t tweak the vision of the plan but it does update some of the data with the latest numbers in order to deny or confirm trends. It has also added a few projects compared to its 2013 version.
Like similar versions, the plan continues to estimate an increased need for alternative transportation infrastructure for those within the city center. Both biking and walking have become more popular in the last decade, and the plan explains that “automobile use should be a choice rather than forced.”
To create that ideal, 55.7 miles of additional sidewalk and bike lane projects as well as 28.1 miles of road sharing facilities have been identified.
A related issue is the need for public transportation for those without vehicles or mobility. Demographic trends point to higher percentages of a senior population due to aging residents and difficulties in attracting younger people into the area.
The 100-plus page document is now up for public review with public hearings scheduled for the end of next week.
The plan can be examined in detail at the commission’s website or by visiting the commission’s offices, 130 W. North St. Public comment can be made at two scheduled hearings: 10 a.m. Thursday, Aug. 9, at the Allen County Regional Transit Authority, 200 E. High St., and 3 p.m. Friday, Aug. 10, at the Lima Public Library, 650 W. Market St. In addition, staff will be available to answer questions in the merchant’s building at the Allen County Fair at 4 p.m. Friday, Aug. 17. The public review period ends Aug. 23.
The 2040 Long-Range Transportation Plan Update does not include planning for less-traveled suburban roads. Instead, it is meant to identify projects that affect the larger system.
“We’re trying to use a lot of federal funds, but it’s a fairly complicated system of roadways,” Mazur said.
Reach Josh Ellerbrock at 567-242-0398.