Wednesday, June 05, 2013

What's right for Main Street is right for the rest of us, too.

Main Street already runs two ways. This means that the precondition of most importance already has been achieved.

But Main Street was degraded for decades according to its usage dictates as a state road, and now the city can do with it as it pleases, so a multi-million dollar corridor redesign is underway. It will calm traffic, repair infrastructure and provide decorative touches.

All of this is quite good, although we might examine costs a bit more closely. This perpetually open checkbook we now seemingly possess is becoming a bit worrisome. It depends on Cappuccino's abacus, and that is not a sure thing.

I fully support the notion of transforming Main Street into a slowed and beautified avenue, with this deal-breaker of a caveat:

What's right for Main Street is right for the rest of us, too.

It has been said before, and I mentioned this very topic in passing during public speaking time at the Monday council meeting: What is being planned for street grid changes along the generally affluent Main Street corridor cannot be allowed to occur in a vacuum.

For one, whatever traffic rowdiness is displaced from Main Street will migrate to other east-west streets in the city. The fine-china-shaking trucks will seek routes elsewhere.

More significantly, one-way arterial streets like Spring and Elm still slice directly through transitional neighborhoods, which are in need of traffic calming, walkability enhancement and overall street safety every bit as much as Main Street.

When considering the higher speeds and distracted vehicular chaos generally associated with one-way arterial streets, can expenditures like those boosting neighborhood stabilization in less affluent areas to the north of Main Street truly succeed if their street grid's very design contradicts their aim and precludes ultimate success?

These one-way streets also constitute a kind of “environmental racism,” where speeding motorists on one-way streets increase the levels of exhaust, noise, and pollution. One-way streets are predominately located in older downtown neighborhoods in minority, poor and working-class neighborhoods. Engineers claim that "one-way” is the best way because it moves traffic quicker, but they don’t understand the sociological, ecological and economic impacts of a one-way street.

As quickly as possible, the city of New Albany needs to be openly forthcoming about the "rest of the plan" for downtown streets. Pleadings of poverty will not be tolerated in the wake of millions spent elsewhere. It's time to build upon those successes we've managed to achieve, and get the streets right -- because what's right for Main Street is right for the rest of us, don't you think?

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