Astonishment: Some caveats, some exceptions, but HWC Engineering recommends two-way street reversions for Spring, Elm, Market, Pearl and Bank.


UPDATE: The News and Tribune has published a longer version of the link below.

It has taken us a half-century to get to this point, and it would be impossible for me to comprehensively describe in a single post this morning’s presentation to the Board of Public Works and Safety by Jim Rice of HWC Engineering, during which substantive two-way street reversion was officially recommended.

Engineering firm recommends two-way street conversion in downtown New Albany … Public presentation next Monday at NAHS, by Elizabeth Beilman (News and Tribune)

… The city should be ready to bid any construction changes by March, Rice said. These changes could be finished in September 2017.

Seemingly, the world is turned upside down, although when we look outside, it’s still New Albany. A stopped clock is right twice a day. Is this finally an alignment, or just another prelude to Lucy pulling away the football?

I believe you’ll understand that after advocating for something this rational for so long, and seeing the creative ways we’ve managed to avoid action, I simply cannot get too excited about this development until I see actual stripes being painted and angry truckers flipping the bird.

And yet, for the second time in less than a month, it felt as though my own words on behalf of a modern two-way street grid, designed and maintained for all users, were being read back to me. I’ll concede that it was a strange sensation to hear Rice repeat aloud the principles (familiar to NAC devotees, if not the general public) we’ve discussed here so often.

It was even more bizarre to hear one city official after the other agree, although it will surprise no one to learn that Mayor Jeff Gahan did not attend this morning’s meeting.

Briefly, subject to a closer reading, please know that while the recommended reversion is indeed substantive, it is not total.

There are exceptions: The one-way portion of Oak is not included. Also, the current interstate approaches are to stay as they are, as one-way sections, as with Spring Street west of State and Elm from the ramp to State.

There is a sad cave-in of a compromise for the 800-lb gorilla: Padgett Inc. gets a big turn radius on Spring at 4th (which we already proposed) but also a widened gateway to the interstate; from 4th to State there’ll be three lanes on Spring, not two; two westbound, one eastbound, and all of them 12-feet wide (nothing was said about the return route on Elm).

For the record, I’m opposed to this compromise. It contradicts the stated walkability aims on a crucial snippet of Spring. When I mentioned this to Rice, he said that traffic will be slowed in this stretch. I think it’s still a problem, and I’d like to see it addressed on Monday.

Another compromise: While Jeff Speck suggested 10-foot traffic lanes citywide, HWC recommends 11-foot lanes everywhere except the 4th-to-State lanes described above.

I’m wary about this, too, although we must remember that when Doug England took office in 2008, there were three 12-foot lanes running on Spring all the way from Vincennes to State. Two 11-foot lanes would be a big improvement, though stopping short of the ideal of 10-feet.

Nothing was said this morning about problems previously cited at 15th Street with the railroad track signals; we must assume these have been resolved.

Nothing was said about issues with cross streets, as with Tiger Truck Lines’ ongoing abuse of 13th, or where bicycles will go when knocked off Spring Street at 4th owing to the Padgett Compromise.

In fact, pending another look at Speck’s plan, it appears that much of his more comprehensive bicycle-friendly approach has been jettisoned.

However, many reassuring comments were made by Rice with regard to pedestrian safety and walkability. Rice even demonstrated how crosswalks can be beautified and made more noticeable — something we’ve constantly been told isn’t feasible.

Indeed, wonders never cease.

My guess is that all such details will be explained to us like this: Once we’ve tackled the first 75% and see how it goes, the next 25% will be easier, and these unresolved areas can be addressed one by one.

This may even be reasonable. Right now, I’m combing the area for land mines and candid cameras, because when things seem too good to be true … anyway, I hope to see many readers on Monday evening.

HWC will give the same presentation Monday, Sept. 19 at 6 p.m. in New Albany High School’s auditorium. That open session will allow residents, business owners and others to voice their concerns, just one night before the city will make a decision.

“To me, I’ve got questions still, but it looks great,” board of works president Warren Nash said of HWC’s recommendation. “Long time coming.”

In other news, my liquor cabinet is set for doubling. Ciao for now.