Downtown Traffic issues

A pedestrian crosses a busy Spring Street lined with vehicles Wednesday evening in Jeffersonville. City officials are looking to outside sources for help with issues caused by aN increase of visitors to the downtown area, primarily focusing on pedestrian safety and the lack of parking.

JEFFERSONVILLE — The city is making changes to address increased traffic and parking needs in the downtown corridor that have sprung up since the opening of the Big Four Bridge ramp in Jeffersonville earlier this year.

“I think we’ve seen more people than we were expecting, and that’s a good thing,” said Kelly Phillips, Jeffersonville neighborhood and business development director.

However, the large influx of visitors downtown have caused some issues — namely concerns about pedestrian safety, accessibility for residents and businesses and a perceived lack of parking despite the 20-block area having about 2,500 spots.

Residents, business owners and city officials discussed these issues and possible solutions at an open house-style forum at Preservation Station on Wednesday. Comments from the meeting will be part of a study by Lochmueller Group Inc., which is giving recommendations on how to alleviate issues.

“Really the idea is just to gather as much input as we can,” said Nick Batta, project manager for Lochmueller Group.

The infrastructure consulting company is looking specifically at the downtown district between Court Avenue and the Ohio River, and between the Kennedy Bridge and Locust Street.

Phillips said that conversations about parking and traffic downtown began right before Big Four Bridge opened. Mixed opinions from residents and business owners caused the city to contract Lochmueller Group to do a traffic study and recommend solutions, Phillips said.

Consultants have been paying close attention to traffic downtown, especially on Spring Street, tracking the average time cars are parked on streets and how well signs are followed.

Batta said that some possible solutions include adding more public surface lots or increasing signage. He said a parking structure is an unlikely solution.

“I think we’d probably consider some more cost-effective options first,” he said.

One area of disagreement is whether to close the intersection at Chestnut and Pearl streets, which pedestrians from the bridge often use as a route to Spring Street. Phillips said some people want it closed for safety reasons and others want it open for better traffic flow.

“And I think there are good arguments on both sides of it,” she said.

Rose Hill Neighborhood Association President Mary Jo Carrico said that about 90 percent of the residents would like to keep it open because it’s a “main artery” of traffic downtown.

“We want it open, but we want it safe,” Carrico said.

Warren Schimpff, owner of Schimpff’s Confectionery on Spring Street, said wants patrons to be able to get to his business easily.

“We as a business need those streets open so they can get around,” he said.

Some suggestions were to install blinking lights at stop signs because many motorists ignore them and to add speed bumps.

“This is a special area,” Carrico said of the convergence of high pedestrian and vehicle traffic.

Meeting attendants also said that two-hour parking rules on Spring Street are not followed or enforced, causing business patrons and employees to park a block or more away. Schimpff said that employees should not be allowed to park in front of their businesses because it takes away from patrons.

“It’s just common sense that [employees] shouldn’t park out front,” he said.

Lochmueller Group will have its traffic and parking study released soon with recommendations ready by the new year.

Batta said that any residents or business owners who have input can email him at NBatta@lochgroup.com

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Elizabeth is the Southern Indiana government reporter for the News and Tribune. She is a Louisville, Ky. native and graduate of Western Kentucky University. Follow her on Twitter at @EMBeilman.

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