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September 21, 2023

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Residents, students raise transportation concerns at TMACOG public forum

Senior Kim Isaac’s daily walk to class has become more of an danger than a safe commute.

“My walk to class is all ice,” Isaac said, who lives on South College Drive. “I’ve fallen on my way to class, I’ve seen others fall, I’ve seen the elderly fall; it’s not just students.”

Isaac brought her concerns with her to the Toledo Metropolitan Area Council of Governments’ public forum Monday night, which aimed to gather Wood County residents’ transportation issues to implement into its 2015-2045 transportation plan. The forum was coordinated with the University’s Master of Public Administration Program and hosted at Holiday Inn.

Along with the condition of the sidewalks, roughly 50 residents and students also brought up bicycle paths, pedestrian safety and public transit to Toledo.

“A [passenger] rail to Toledo would be a good idea,” Isaac said, who participated in one of six discussion groups facilitated by graduate students. “The mall is bigger, there’s more restaurants; there’s a lot more to do in Toledo.”

The student facilitators will later compile the main issues, analyze them and present it to the TMACOG’s planning committee in April, which will come back to Bowling Green next year with a draft.

While the overall process may be lengthy, Bowling Green Municipal Administrator John Fawcett said these forums lead to change in city infrastructure.

“The improvements we are now seeing are [issues brought up in forums] from 10 years ago,” Fawcett said, noting the North Main Street project that was recently completed, which widened the road and sidewalks north of Poe Road. “Any forum that solicits input by a whole range of people will lead to a better product.”

Besides being a forum for improvement, it was also a learning experience for the graduate students in the public administration program, who coordinated the event for their capstone course to graduate.

“Putting on public meetings is a big part of being in the government or non-profit sector,” said Russell Mills, assistant professor of political science, who is instructing the course. “The idea is about the process of reaching out.”

For graduate student Maribeth Stevens, the skills she’s picking up through these events are transferable to a future job.

“It’s really good to gather input,” Stevens said of the forum. “It’s been a great opportunity to work with the community and our partner.”

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