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November 12, 2013

Bearing the load in New Albany: Traffic study issue resurfaces

City Council defeated ordinance to appropriate funding on Nov. 7

NEW ALBANY — If the City Council won’t pay for it, the Redevelopment Commission might.

Redevelopment commissioner Dan Coffey suggested reviving the idea of a traffic study in New Albany to see the impact of bridge construction and tolls after completion in late 2016. The City Council defeated an ordinance to appropriate $30,000 for the study on Nov. 7.

“We need a traffic study for this town,” Coffey said. “Especially with the fact with the bridges going in the way they are, I assume we’ll have more traffic coming into downtown.”

Coffey said one reason the study was defeated by the council — which he also sits on — was because of the cap imposed in the resolution.

Jorge Lanz, president of the engineering firm, Jacobi, Toombs and Lanz, said a study that encompasses traffic impact and flow could cost the commission anywhere from $30,000 to $50,000. But he said as construction begins on new bridges and if the Kennedy and George Rogers Clark Memorial bridges close for repairs, New Albany could experience a heavy traffic load.

“I guarantee they’re going to shut down [the Clark Memorial] bridge at the same time they’re reconstructing the Kennedy Bridge,” Lanz said. “There’s not going to be anybody able to cross that river unless they come to the Sherman Minton.”

Though the Ohio River Bridges Project’s impact study included considerations for New Albany and the Sherman Minton Bridge, public works projects supervisor John Rosenbarger said he doesn’t think it addressed the concerns for the city or its bridge.

He said the bridge could have a lot more cars crossing it once tolls are implemented on the two new bridges and the Kennedy.

“I’m a little skeptical that the bridges’ impact analysis really seriously considered any impact in New Albany,” Rosenbarger said. “I think there’s a huge gap. At the meeting I was at, they just presumed one car per minute per hour per lane. When you do that math, it’s like 4,000 to 5,000 more cars per cross street. They said that has no adverse impact.”

Ed Hancock, secretary, said he doesn’t think the tolls will deter so many drivers that they’ll avoid paying them to drive long distances just to cross the Sherman Minton.

“The point is you can’t work over on the east end of Louisville and drive down here and all the way around at $4 a gallon for gas if you’re paying a buck to go across that bridge,” Hancock said.

Irving Joshua, commission president, said he thinks a lot of drivers will do just that, especially since tolls aren’t going to cost $1 for everyone.

Frequent bridge crossers — which the tolling body defined as 40 or more trips per month — will pre-pay in an account with a car-mounted transponder for $1 per crossing. However, cars without transponders will pay $2 per crossing and the rates go even higher for commercial vehicles.

“The question is how much of that traffic, once there’s a toll on the Kennedy Bridge, is going to come into New Albany,” Joshua said. “You can say maybe it’ll go around, but what happens is most of the time it doesn’t.”

But the commercial vehicles avoiding tolls could also create a problem if they drive through New Albany, Coffey said.

He said without load limits on many of the city streets, large trucks could cause a lot of damage to the pavement.

Lanz said that’s another factor to consider in a traffic study, but one that would require drilling out cores from streets to determine their load capacities.

The City Council can’t bring the study back up for another year since it was defeated. But Coffey said the Redevelopment Commission should take steps forward to make it happen.

“People don’t realize that we need a traffic study coming up the next two or three years,” Coffey said. “We don’t know what’s going to happen, we really don’t. I feel like as redevelopment commission, that’s within our domain, we should be the ones paying for that.”

The commission also approved capital improvement repairs for the Floyd County YMCA’s pool and reviewed some plans for sidewalks along Captain Frank Road, which they’ll review again at their next meeting on Nov. 26.

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