News and Tribune

May 21, 2013

New Albany seeking to calm traffic, improve safety along Main Street

By DANIEL SUDDEATH
daniel.suddeath@newsandtribune.com

NEW ALBANY —

Raised medians, curb replacements and additional lighting — there are several features to the East Main Street improvement plan, which was unveiled Monday. 

While the conceptual design may not be new, as it’s largely based on a Main Street Preservation Association plan from 2006, the will to complete the project appears to be firm. 

“We’d rather see the project built sooner than later,” said John Rosenbarger, director of public facilities projects for the city, in response to a question as to whether federal aid would be sought for the improvements. 

There’s a “long and distinguished list” of federal aid suitors, and joining the group to request funds could delay the project by several years, Rosenbarger said.  Instead, the city is seeking to have the plan designed within four months so that construction can start this fall, officials said. 

In 2010, the state relinquished control of Ind. 111 from Mount Tabor Road to State Street, and the city received funding for taking over maintenance of that span. Additionally, the city hopes to receive another $500,000 from the state to put toward the potential $1.79 million Main Street project, which would extend from East Fifth Street to Vincennes Street. 

During a public forum on the proposal Monday, city officials and engineers said the project is intended to calm traffic on Main Street and make the road more pedestrian-friendly. To help accomplish that, the city-hired design company Clark-Dietz is proposing to reduce the 50-foot width of Main Street by 5 feet in each lane. Raised medians with vegetation in the center would be added under the plan, and there would be more identifiable crossings for walkers. 

Designers estimated the project could slow traffic by up to 15 mph on Main Street, which would give it more of an urban street feel. 

“Main Street really acts and is laid out in a highway configuration,” said Wes Christmas, engineer with Clark-Dietz. 

Adding medians in the middle of the street will give pedestrians refuge while at the same time cutting lanes down to calm traffic, Clark-Dietz engineer Doug Valmore said. 

“The tighter they feel, the slower they’re going to go,” he said of motorists. 

Art features such as obelisks could be added, along with enhanced street lighting, though Christmas and Rosenbarger stressed the project is still in design. 

Christmas said public input will help shape the final product. 

About 50 people, including multiple city council members and State Rep. Ed Clere, R-New Albany, attended the meeting. Some of the concerns raised were in relation to construction inconveniences, difficulties turning into properties with the addition of medians and requests to respect the historical significance of the area. There also were questions about the number of official crossings for disabled people, as well as whether bike lanes would be added. 

Christmas said that based on feedback he’s garnered, most bicyclists don’t mind sharing the same pavement with motorists as long as vehicle speeds are reduced. As the project is designed to calm traffic in the residential corridor of Main Street, Christmas said bike lanes are not included in the plan. 

While there were some concerns raised, others signaled their support of the project. 

“I’m also glad to actually see it being used,” said Main Street Preservation Association President Peter Feimer of the city basing its preliminary design on the group’s 2006 plan. Rosenbarger said the project will be handled by the New Albany Board of Public Works and Safety, which means the city council wouldn’t cast a ballot on it. 

Officials said at least one more public forum will be held on the project.