Tuesday, December 27, 2005

Return of two-way streets in NA: Might this constitute an idea that unites?

Or are we too hopelessly stupid to succeed?

While it’s true that our local newspapers have been filled to the rim with misty-eyed Christmas bilge during the past week, it remains that a few articles of genuine substance have somehow crept through the de facto blockade against reality-based programming.

Among the best was “Traffic patterns on the move in Southern Indiana,” last week’s Tribune offering by John L. Gilkey (News-Tribune), in which the writer briefly but comprehensively surveyed road and traffic issues in Clarksville, Jeffersonville and New Albany:

New Albany Mayor James Garner said he is considering a conversion of the city’s one-way street system back to two-way traffic, but he said the cost will be high.“The one-way system needs to be two-way based on current traffic patterns, but the cost of doing so is high — about $1 million,” Garner said.

The city has been analyzing its traffic patterns for some time, and believes the change will improve traffic flow, he said. But to do so will require extensive changes to traffic signals, restriping of roadways and, in some cases, resurfacing. Also, crosswalks will need to be added at certain locations.

Mayor Garner also discussed the future of Daisy Lane, and work needed on the city’s exurb arteries, i.e., Charlestown and Grant Line Roads and State Street.

From the desired perspective of boosting New Albany’s future prospects by improving the city’s quality of life in those residential districts adjacent to downtown, by linking this to commercial development in the historic business district, and in recognizing that traffic problems like speeding and recklessness commonly are viewed as roadway design issues and not law enforcement issues, this much debated restoration of the city’s street grid certainly must be a centerpiece of future redevelopment strategies.

Urban planners of a previous generation (show trials, anyone?) manipulated the street grid as a means of moving people quickly from one side to the other, implicitly (or otherwise) acknowledging that there would be little interest in stopping in between.

It was shortsighted then, and it’s plainly mistaken now, but the point is that as real world conditions change, so must the premises with which we treat them, and what we need now is a slower pace downtown, with opportunities for walking and bicycling, and not just because of the aesthetic advantages – because the overall economic well-being of the community stands to be enhanced in such a manner.

Model after model indicates that in all facets of life, downtown must be transformed into the overtly stated antithesis of the plastic, big-box exurb, and what is more perfectly representative of the soulless exurb than its cruelly necessary traffic patterns?

Appropriately, Gilkey considers the evolving Clarksville retail exurb, and provides us with one of the greatest examples of mover-and-shaker disingenuousness that you’re likely to view in print:

Clarksville Redevelopment Director Rick Dickman said the town is seeing extensive changes in traffic patterns because of its Veterans Parkway Corridor development.

The corridor was designed based on the town’s original development plan for the area, which included specialty retail and office buildings along with a hotel and conference center.

“The roadway wasn’t designed to accommodate big-box retail from one end to the other, but that’s what we have,” Dickman said.

Dickman must be kidding.

“That’s what we have,” he purrs, as though "big-box" burst from a tiny seed and grew overnight like a flower in time-lapse photography … as though the town were utterly powerless to prevent the construction crews and big box retailers from radically altering its original plan for the area and thus rendering the roadway obsolete before it was completed ... as though the abrupt surrender of the planners owed to anything other than greed.

Did Wal-Mart hold a pistol to your head, Rick? Did the Gary McCartin’s of the world kidnap your family and hold it hostage until you approved their plans? Did they bring the bricks and mortar into the town limits by backpack and build at night, when they couldn’t be seen?

That Rick Dickman and his brethren chose to alter virtually everything about their original plan so as to maximize the financial return of the development for Clarksville is perfectly understandable, if not entirely consistent with their original stated aims – but please, just don’t insult the community by expressing mock shock and dazzled surprise that it happened the way it did.

Wait -- we’re not trusting Dickman with the Greenway, are we?

Can he squeeze a tacky McCartin retail development (Coffey Commons?) alongside the Loop Island Wetlands (on the Clarskville side, preferably) -- perhaps with Mike Sodrel's federally-mandated help?

But I digress (shrug).

NA Confidential’s question for today is this: We know the reasons for restoring the two-way street grid in New Albany, but what is the case against?

Down trogs, down; we know there currently isn't a cool million buried in one of Steve Price's backyard "nickel 'n' dime" deposit boxes to finance such a project, but are there compelling reasons against finding the money?

Discussion, anyone?


ceece said...

Are we talking about all (current) one-way streets being switched?

I think the main problem is kind of a chicken-or-egg thing. Example:
We keep toting that we need to do this changes to increase the commerce downtown and making the area more accessible, but how long will it take for these potential business to arrive? What if they don't? I can hear the "I told you so's already"

If this does include streets like Oak and Elm, there is a hard enough time keeping most people reasonably around the posted speed-limit of 30. 2 way-streets would increase the traffic on the (mainly) residential streets. I know i don't want that.

edward parish said...

If I remember from conversations in days gone by, John Rosenbarger is the ace in the hole so to speak when it comes to traffic patterns and the like.

My question has always been one of why are Spring and Market Streets one way.

Louisville took the huge leap of faith and rid itself of some one way streets and it appears to have been easier traveling on the two that come to mind for me and my bride, those would be parts Second Street and Oak Street.

maury k goldberg said...

Dear New Albanian,

This discussion is nothing new. If you are a lifelong resident of New Albany you would have encountered this topic at least once in your lifetime. What is the point of discussion?

Lifestyle? Busness? Neighborhood issues? New Albany's Downtown Development? All of these combined or in any combinations?

If the goal is to improve downtown retail thentwo way traffic on Pearl and Market streets makes sense. This would slow taffic down and icrease people traffic for local merchants. But this reduces the ability of the streets to carry traffic also, such change must be thought out carefully.

Mr. Gilkey article refers to economic development in Jeffersonville, Clarksville and New Albany. Only New Albany has one way streets. Two way traffic exists in the major business roadways even in New Albany's major shopping areas.

Does traffic patterns need to be looked at so improvements can be made? Yes, this need to be done on a regular basis.Then what is the focus ?

The one way streets change in New Albnay is mainly in the Central Business District and also to provide smooth acess to the Casino.
Any change to take place need to be thought out and be part of an overall plan.


All4Word said...

2-way traffic slows traffic. The only one-way streets in town should be those too narrow to accommodate two-way traffic.

I'm still waiting to hear the negatives.

Jeff Gillenwater said...

There's a lot more to two-way traffic than retail, stoplights, and speed limits. The idea, when combined with walking and biking paths, pocket parks, and well-landscaped boulevards, equates to creating a proper stage on which urban life can occur.

Streets are not simply a way in which to move the maximum number of people as quickly as possible from one destination to another. In a densely populated area, streets are THE MOST IMPORTANT PUBLIC SPACE FOR HUMAN INTERACTION. As such, city streets should be designed giving human traffic the priority with motorized vehicles a secondary concern.

If understood properly, that's an entirely new discussion for most of the United States. The point of discussing it is to call attention not to variations of the same old automobile theme but to the decades of face-to-face relations (and the benefits therein) that we've sacrificed to it.

Unless you're ready to accept the idea that anonymous exhaust fumes are better than increased opportunities for understanding and relationships between diverse groups of people, you're going to be waiting a long time for an effective argument against re-designing our streets.

TedF said...

I'm curious if the $1 million price tag mentioned in the article references all the one ways (Spring, Market, and Elm)? If nobody knows, I'll call John R. and ask.

It's nice to know that the traffic patterns have been under study for some time. It would be even nicer to have a projected timeline for implementation of the 2 ways.

All4Word said...

That $1 million price tag could be just for Spring Street, although I haven't been able to figure out how you could make ONLY that change, and I can't see how that would cost $1 million.

ceece said...

re bluegills comments, about human traffic being first. Do you think we would be able to have the sidewalks improved upon? That would be great for most of the city, no?

All4word,i didn't know that 2-way streets slowed traffic. thanks.
how about the increase in traffic? anyone know about that?

ceece said...

*Spits dr. pepper on keyboard*

JUST SPRING STREET? how can that be?

TedF said...

Lot of folks on vaca at the City so I don't think I'll get the $1 million question answered or what streets that includes until next week.

I would certainly be a proponent of doing all the streets at once, or within a very short timeframe.

Karen Gillenwater said...


Personally, I think making all the streets downtown two-way would decrease traffic and make the traffic flow much simpler. If you think about it, people coming off of the interstate headed toward somewhere on Spring Street currently have to drive up Elm Street until they pass the location they want to get to on Spring. They then have to turn down a side street to get to Spring and backtrack to their destination. If Spring were two-way, they could immediately cut over to Spring from the interstate. This would enable them to drive less and find their destination easier. It would also keep them from driving on Elm and a side street to get somewhere on Spring. This holds true for people needing to get to Elm and Market from Vincennes—they create traffic on Spring and Main.

There’s also the point that we want to increase traffic (i.e. patronage of businesses) downtown. We need to reconfigure the traffic patterns to make it easier and safer for those visitors and residents to get around.

ceece said...

kar-yeah i know about the increasing business thing. (see my first comment).My concern is primarily for the traffic on the mainly residential streets, not spring or market or main.


Karen Gillenwater said...

What are your opinions on the increase or decrease of traffic? I was mainly trying to give my thoughts on how making the streets two-way would help to decrease traffic on all of the streets by making traffic patterns more direct.