NEW ALBANY —
EAST MAIN STREET PROJECT
Construction began this week for the East Main Street project, as improvements are to include the installation of grassy medians and new sidewalks from East Fifth Street to Vincennes Street.
Already a two-way street, residents said similar improvements are needed for Elm and Spring Streets.
“The mayor has already made the case as to why these improvements are important,” said John Smith, who recently moved to East Spring Street with his wife, Jessica, and their daughter.
City officials have said the East Main Street project is intended to reduce vehicular speed and make the corridor safer for pedestrians — the same qualities Jessica and John Smith said should be warranted for Spring, Market and Elm Streets.
“We have a 10-year-old daughter, and there’s no way I’d ever let her play outside by herself because of the pace of the cars and how fast they’re going,” she said.
Phipps added that while he supports the East Main Street improvements, he’s concerned more tractor trailer traffic will divert to other downtown streets as a result of the project.
But the improvements are being primarily footed by funds given to the city by the state for assuming control of about 4.5 miles of Ind. 111. Gahan said the project is just one part of the planning and improvements being completed by the city ahead of the completion of the bridges project.
The city has also recently hired a full-time engineer, and part of his responsibility will be to review infrastructure projects.
IT’S NOT ALL BAD
With change comes opportunity, and New Albany could benefit from the bridges project in terms of economic development and travel.
“In general, I think it will improve the way we move throughout the region, and I think that’s a good thing,” Gahan said.
Some may choose to stay in Southern Indiana to shop and dine instead of paying a toll to drive to Louisville.
Cisa Barry, owner of Sew Fitting inside The White House Centre off Pearl Street, said many downtown businesses enjoyed a boost in sales when the Sherman Minton Bridge was closed for repairs in 2011.
“All we found was that people who were on this side of the Ohio River didn’t want to go to Louisville to deal with the hassles, so they stayed here,” she said.
But like other business owners and residents, she feels the city should convert streets to two-way traffic before tolling begins.
“Already with our existing traffic, people go flying down Spring and Market Street,” Barry said.
Even if there’s more congestion on Spring Street as a result of it being turned to two-way, people will be safer and businesses will be more likely to receive new customers because motorists will actually have a greater chance of noticing New Albany establishments, she continued.