NEW ALBANY —
PLANNING FOR CHANGE
Some officials and residents believe motorists will eventually adjust to the tolls and stick with their normal travel routes instead of driving to New Albany to access the Sherman Minton Bridge.
But when the tolls begin, New Albany will see more traffic, and the city has hired nationally acclaimed author and planner Jeff Speck to study the downtown street grid and provide recommendations on how to improve the corridor.
Speck — author of “Walkable City: How Downtown Can Save America, One Step at a Time” — is a proponent of enhancing pedestrian accessibility and generally favors two-way streets.
Those are both issues the East Spring Neighborhood Association agrees with Speck on, as Roberts said streets like Spring, Elm and Market should have been converted to two-way traffic flow several years ago.
“It’s a no-brainer,” he said.
The organization has ordered signs that echo support for two-way streets to give to downtown residents and businesses, as Roberts said people need to pressure the administration to make the conversions before tolling begins.
“I think the mayor’s office is concerned that there’s not many people wanting this,” Roberts said of two-way traffic.
New Albany City Councilman Greg Phipps sponsored an appropriation last year that would have provided funds for a street study. The survey was to include suggestions on converting streets to two-way.
The appropriation ultimately failed to pass, though the administration through the Board of Public Works and Safety and New Albany Redevelopment Commission helped garner funds to hire Speck.
Phipps promised during his campaign to fight for two-way streets, and said he hopes the administration will act, as the council hasn’t passed a measure giving the body authority to change street direction.
“I feel like I’ve done all I can do with it,” he said. “I think they could act without the study. The study is no guarantee that they’re going to act on its recommendations, but I hope that they do.”
David Duggins, director of economic development and redevelopment for the city, said this week that Speck’s expertise lends itself well to New Albany’s situation.
The city wants to improve safety for pedestrians and motorists, and needs a comprehensive evaluation of the existing grid as well as professional recommendations on how the area could be enhanced ahead of the bridges project, Duggins said.
“It’s exciting to be able to work with such a nationally recognized expert, but I think it speaks highly of New Albany and the Gahan administration to have the ability to bring on someone of [Speck’s] caliber,” he said.