Wednesday, April 16, 2014
New Albany's streets: Screwed by design. Why?
The YMCA is on the south side of Main Street, with parking on the building's west side. Feast BBQ and The Exchange (sorry, but the Hour/Tower/Shower of Power doesn't count) are on the north side of Main. Soon, across W. 1st Street on the north side of Main, there'll be the Seeds and Greens Natural Market and Deli, and of course the antique store already operates on the corner.
A half-block to the north are the municipal parking lots where the farmers market probably should be, if we were in the habit of thinking and acting in the interest of multiple usage.
The are multiple traffic lanes at W. 1st and Main in the approach to the stop light at State, and people crossing the street from the western parking areas more often than ever before. All that's missing is a crosswalk, as can be seen in the photo. I'd just bounded across after being cursed by a driver who'd be forced to wait an entire 10 seconds for my passage.
As it pertains to rationalizing the city's street grid, there are two 800-lb gorillas perched downtown. One is Padgett, which uses East 4th and Spring as its private driveway for maneuvering block-long heavy equipment from its site, which quite simply is increasingly obsolete in a revitalizing urban context.
The second is QRS (formerly Riverside) Recycling. Heavy trucks formerly bound for QRS from the east now divert from Main Street and barrel down Spring, unimpeded by the city's non-enforcement regime; meanwhile, those approaching from the interstate thunder past downtown businesses on State before turning onto Main at a point just to the left of the view in the photo. Of course, Main also serves as the conduit to the casino.
Naturally, when called upon to address the section of Main most in need of a refrofit, the city is devoting its time and resources to the residential stretch of the street in front of John Rosenbarger's house, picking winners in one neighborhood, and shifting pressing issues elsewhere (monster trucks on Spring), thus dully ensuring that the counter-productive situation with unregulated heavy truck traffic downtown will be downplayed for another decade or three.
Of course, we are perpetually assured that somewhere behind closed doors sans public input, this problem is being carefully studied -- but let's leave Democratic Party central committee bowling events out of it.
In the meantime, any number of calming and enforcement measures might be deployed to improve street scenes like the one depicted above. But in New Albany, we've only gotten one design issue right: Our streets are designed for chaos, and chaos is what they produce, on a daily basis.
Does it have to be this way?