News and Tribune


June 6, 2013



Main Street should be transformed into a slowed and beautified avenue, with one major caveat: What’s right for Main Street is right for the rest of us, too.

I mentioned this very topic during public speaking time at the council meeting of June 3, because what is being planned for street grid changes along the generally more affluent Main Street corridor simply cannot be allowed to occur in a vacuum.

For one, whatever traffic rowdiness is displaced from Main Street will migrate to other east-west streets in the city. The fine-china-shaking trucks and speeders will seek routes elsewhere. They always do.

More significantly, one-way arterial streets like Spring and Elm still slice directly through transitional neighborhoods, which are in need of traffic calming, walkability enhancement and overall street safety every bit as much as Main Street.

When considering the higher speeds and dulled-driver chaos generated by one-way arterial streets, can expenditures like those seeking to boost neighborhood stabilization in less affluent areas to the north of Main Street ever truly succeed if their street grid’s very design contradicts the aim, and precludes ultimate success?

In this context, some analysts consider one-way streets as constituting “a kind of ‘environmental racism,’ where speeding motorists on one-way streets increase the levels of exhaust, noise, and pollution (in) older downtown … minority, poor and working-class neighborhoods,” according to a publication from the University of Louisville’s Center for Sustainable Urban Neighborhoods.

If two-way traffic, traffic calming and right-sizing are restricted to Main Street alone, it may well be a case for the Human Rights Commission to consider. We have one, right?

As quickly as possible, the city of New Albany needs to be open and forthcoming about the “rest of the plan” for downtown street grid reforms in both residential and business districts. 

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