City engineer Larry Summers and INDOT explain why there is no crosswalk at Main and W. 1st Streets (1 of 2).

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(2 of 2)

On May 10, city engineer Larry Summers and I had a chat via Facebook messaging. Here it is, complete and unexpurgated. There’ll be a second post with a follow-up question. Larry is to be thanked for answering the question; while we might suggest that all public officials should do so, we know it isn’t always the case. Thank you, Larry.

Roger
I’ve been chatting with INDOT Seymour about the Main/W 1st non-pedestrian friendly area*. They say that the city’s solution during last year’s paving was to add bike lanes to and from nowhere, thus reducing lane width to 12 feet and instituting traffic calming at a spot where the sidewalks don’t have pedestrian ramps pointing across Main. Now, I think this sounds like an opportunity ingloriously blown, BUT my reason for writing to you is to give you or someone else on the Team a chance to explain this in plain English for publication so that I can have both points of view. You tell me Gahan understands better than I realize. Okay. How was this one missed, and what’s to be done about it? Thanks.

Larry
Roger, it was an engineering decision. The Mayor was not involved because I made the decision in the field. It is inadvisable to place a crosswalk at an uncontrolled intersection because it gives pedestrians a false sense of security. It is important to note that when a sidewalk extends to both sides of the street, a crosswalk is presumed whether marked or not. Therefore, a pedestrian should be able to cross with the same protections as a marked crosswalk in terms having the right of way to cross and vehicles should yield accordingly.

Roger
That does not inspire confidence, but thanks. And the bike lanes from and to nowhere? Do you think that lane narrowing means anything, or was that INDOT’s delusion?

Larry
The lane narrowing was introduced to help control excessive speeds. The bike lanes will be incorporated with an overarching scheme, in the future. Parking was introduced in locations where none was previously which will hopefully boost economic development potential and the center turn lane helps accommodate turn movements on Main St and has improved the overall safety and functionality.

Roger
Try to understand. What you’ve just said has only to do with cars, not people. It makes sense for autos. There’s nothing there for walkers; nothing there for businesses on those corners who see the benefit of walkability. You’re saying that cars come first. Is that really what you want to say? There’s nothing in this to indicate your previous words about Speck implementation are valid. Is it time to level with us yet?

Larry
People are the central focus of all my projects. Walkers, bikers, homeowners, business owners, car divers, and semi drivers. The primary concern I gave is safety. I don’t want walkers to feel they are safer than they are at an intersection–if I do, I’m doing the walkers a disservice and have put them in harms way. I always strive for safety for all citizens … I’m typing on my phone and near dangerous machinery. Please forgive typing errors.

Roger
No problem. Look, I like you. Wouldn’t bother if I didn’t, but that’s political drone speak. Speck’s not happening, is it?

Larry
That striping plan is effectively Speck. Compare.

Roger
I was prepared to concede that point, though the lanes are still far too wide. But what you’re saying about the intersection of Main and W 1st is that because the city won’t protect walkers, walkers can’t be protected. It’s a circular argument. What about the REST of the Speck plan on Elm, Spring, etc? Nothing incremental so far is encouraging. Can’t make an omelette without breaking eggs, can you?

Larry
We are awaiting the costs and the costs won’t be know until we know the railroad component and CSX has been less than easy to work with. It’s never as easy as flipping the switch. Especially with federal money.

Roger
Thank you. Final question: If we are not Specked by toll time, what’s Plan B — and your vapid boss already conceded tolls would happen first.

Larry
We flipped the switch on the Silver and Spring project before the tolls. It’s an important component that will improve safety along that dangerous corridor and limit the traffic volume that can cut through New Albany.

Roger
Okay, thanks. How much of this is on the record? People ask me. Team Gahan won’t speak publicly for attribution, and I’d like to provide answers.

Larry
West Main is definitely on the record. We’ve done a news release on the Silver Spring project. Much of what I told you was in there. We need to attribute it to safety, which this project will greatly improve.

Roger
I’ll try to be gentle. But can you answer my question about W 1st? Why not take measures to protect the walkers, rather than say they can’t be protected? Does the state prevent you from being proactive?

Larry
MUTCD cautions against marked crosswalks at uncontrolled intersections. I am protecting the walkers by not letting them think they are safer than what they are. If I mark it, they could walk out thinking a driver will stop and an inattentive driver could kill a pedestrian there.

Roger
We’re not communicating. Why can’t the intersection be controlled? Why not a four way stop?

Larry
That is a state controlled intersection, for one. BOW cannot place controls on a state highway without the consent of the state. I was surprised they even let us guide them with striping.

Roger
So, hypothetically, if the state had included that block of Main in the relinquishment, you could have acted?

Larry
The request could have been brought before BOW. I don’t know the hypothetical outcome, but the request could be made.

Roger
Though as with your field decision on the uncontrolled intersection, BOW likely would defer to your expertise?

Larry
In some cases they defer. In others, the board relies on their on decision. Ultimately, it is their decision to make.

Roger
Okay. Thanks. Appreciate it.

Larry
You’re welcome. Trust me, I’m working my hardest to improve this City with each and every project I’m involved in.

Roger
I believe you. I don’t believe your boss. So it goes.

* Here is the response to my inquiry from INDOT Seymour.

Dear Mr. Baylor,

“Thank you for contacting the Indiana Department of Transportation (INDOT) with your inquiry. The Seymour District Communications Department has received your message concerning the intersection of Main and W 1st Street, New Albany.

“Your inquiry has been sent to the Traffic Investigation Department. They have investigated this location and reported back to me stating INDOT recently partnered with the City of New Albany and repainted this section of SR 111. When these markings were applied, the lanes were reduced to 12’ lanes with a bike lane and parking on both sides of the road. The reduction of lane width and the bike lanes were indeed traffic calming devices.

“There are currently no marked crosswalks at this location because the curb ramps run parallel to SR 111 and not perpendicular. We must mark crossings where curb ramps are present to allow pedestrians a safe refuge from the highway. They also give guidance to individuals in wheelchairs and since the curb ramps are facing incorrectly, we can’t mark it as a safe location to cross.

“There are marked crosswalks one block east at the signalized intersection of SR 111 and State St. This intersection has pedestrian push buttons which allow more time to cross SR 111 when activated. It is also the main entrance to the YMCA.

“Thank you, again, for your inquiry and the opportunity to assist you with this matter. If you have additional questions or require further assistance, please feel free to contact me from the information provided below.”

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