To stop a road widening project, be persistent

Streetsblog recently shared an inspiring story called, "How a Toledo Mom Stopped a Destructive Road Widening" about how a long-time resident of a neighborhood near Toledo, OH successfully fought off a road widening project in her town. While she had no professional background in planning, engineering, or even community organizing, Dana Dunbar used her passion for her neighborhood and resources on websites like ours to rally her neighbors against the project.

Angie Schmitt writes on Streetsblog:

Dana Dunbar. (Source: Streetsblog)

Dana Dunbar. (Source: Streetsblog)

Back when the city of Toledo launched a plan to widen Secor Road between the suburb of Ottawa Hills and West Toledo, Dana Dunbar had no experience as an organizer.

But the project didn’t sit well with Dunbar, a long-time area resident, small business owner, and mother of two. The plan was to add a lane to the busy four-lane road, not far from her house — and to do it, more than a dozen homes would have to be demolished. After talking to a neighbor who was in line to lose her home, she started doing some research. [...]

Dunbar’s research — reading sites like Streetsblog and CityLab and Strong Towns, as well as speaking with experts like [Jeff] Speck — convinced her and other neighbors that reducing the street to two lanes with a center turn lane might be a better solution. Copious before-and-after data shows that converting roads like Secor from four lanes to three is safer and more efficient.

So not only did Dunbar and her neighbors want to stop the road widening project, they wanted to narrow the street instead. The local government wasn't ready to give up $11 million in federal funding that they were expecting for the road widening, but a letter writing campaign, a protest bike ride, and other community actions eventually convinced them otherwise. Ottawa Hills Village Council voted 4-2 against the project last week. The next step for Dunbar and her neighbors is advocating for the road diet they know will make their neighborhood safer and more successful. Read the full article on Streetsblog.

This story really goes to show that Strong Citizens can make a difference. You don't need a huge lobbying group or a PhD or political clout; you just need to be persistent and gather neighbors by your side who support your goal. Congrats to Dana Dunbar and her neighborhood on this success! We hope it inspires others and we're glad Strong Towns can be a resource for people like them.

(Top image: a stretch of Secor Road in Toledo. Source: Google Earth)

Related stories