News and Tribune

Floyd County

October 7, 2013

No majority kills two-way traffic study funding in New Albany

Also: Council votes down raises for themselves

NEW ALBANY — The push to convert downtown streets to two-way traffic flow has struck another roadblock.

On initial readings last month, the New Albany City Council approved funding $30,000 of a $60,000 traffic study that would focus on downtown. But the appropriation died on Monday due to the lack of a majority consensus on the measure.

Councilman John Gonder changed his vote on the final reading as he said the city has oftentimes made the mistake of putting a price tag on a study before it’s even commissioned.

Gonder supports converting streets to two-way traffic, and he sponsored a resolution — which failed to pass — last month that called for the immediate transformation of some roads to two-way use.

But he said the city would effectively be establishing how much it would pay for a traffic study by approving the appropriation.

“I’d be so surprised if it comes out to less than $60,000,” Gonder said.

Mayor Jeff Gahan pledged to use administrative funds for the remaining $30,000 for the study.

Gonder said he met with Gahan and the sponsor of the traffic study appropriation, Councilman Greg Phipps, last week to discuss the issue.

Gahan inferred during the meeting that he felt he needed the traffic study to support, with data and information, converting streets to two-way traffic flow.

Gahan wasn’t present during Monday’s meeting, and no one from the administration who was there addressed the issue.

Councilman Kevin Zurschmiede also voted against the appropriation, saying no one from the administration has addressed the council to ensure the study would be performed, or to state their support for changing the city’s street grid.

Gahan told the News and Tribune last month that he’s “generally supportive” of converting streets to two way traffic, and he added the issue is worthy of a study.

Ultimately the administration doesn’t need the council’s approval to switch the street flow. The New Albany Board of Public Works and Safety — which consists of three members appointed by the mayor — holds control over public streets.

The appropriation was OK’d on final reading 4-3, but due to procedural guidelines, a majority number of the nine-member council must support a resolution or ordinance for it to be official.

Council members Diane McCartin-Benedetti and Scott Blair both voted in favor of the measure last month, but both were absent from Monday’s meeting.

Phipps’ measure is considered dead, and a different street survey appropriation request would have to come before the council to receive a vote.

Along with Zurschmiede and Gonder, Councilman Bob Caesar also voted against the measure. He said converting streets to two-way traffic flow would be an expensive endeavor, and added the results wouldn’t justify the action.

He said the issue was being driven by “about a handful of people that want to be able to turn right onto Bank Street from Elm Street.”

Phipps declined to table the measure to consider changing its language and specifications. He said the issue has dragged on long enough, adding that he’s “tired of beating a dead horse.”

East Spring Street Neighborhood Association President Greg Roberts criticized Gonder after the meeting for changing his vote.

He said the council failed to realize how much of a safety issue traffic flow is for residents who live downtown.

“They stabbed us in the back,” Roberts said.

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