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'Road diet' may get some adjustments

Public works director says he will recommend that left turns onto Wimer Street be allowed
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A motorist on North Main Street attempts to turn left onto Hersey Street. Ashland Public Works Director Mike Faught is recommending that the city continue to allow left turns there, but that a center turn lane be added and Wimer and Hersey streets be shifted to line up with each other.Julia Moore
 Posted: 2:00 AM June 16, 2011

Ashland Public Works Director Mike Faught is recommending changes to a proposed North Main Street "road diet" to try and alleviate some of the concerns residents voiced at a Tuesday meeting.

The city has been exploring a proposal to convert North Main Street's four lanes to two with a center turn lane. That would make more room on the sides of the road for bike lanes and pedestrians.

The city would re-stripe North Main Street to put it on a "diet" between Helman Street and Jackson Road on the northwest edge of town.

The proposal included an idea to prohibit northbound drivers on North Main Street from making a left turn onto Wimer Street.

But at a Tuesday forum, many residents said banning that left turn would cause traffic to skyrocket on other streets in the neighborhood as drivers sought alternate routes.

On Wednesday, Faught said he and city staff will recommend that left turns onto Wimer Street be allowed.

"We really heard the input and the concerns," he said.

A study by Portland-based Kittelson & Associates found that traffic on Laurel Street could jump from 887 car trips per day to 1,887 as drivers looked for alternatives to Wimer Street.

Faught said the Wimer Street left-hand-turn ban had been considered because Wimer, Hersey and North Main streets form Ashland's most dangerous intersection. Wimer and Hersey both join North Main, but they don't line up with each other.

Faught said he will recommend that the city make changes to better align that intersection. That would mean the city would use part of Colwell Chiropractic's parking lot to reroute Hersey to be closer to Wimer.

Owner John Colwell could shift some of his patient parking onto city-owned land on the other side of the clinic in exchange for giving up part of his existing parking lot, Faught said.

Realigning Hersey and Wimer streets would cost about $400,000 to $500,000. That potentially could be paid for with Oregon Department of Transportation bicycle and pedestrian grants and city infrastructure funds, Faught said.

The city previously had explored a more far-reaching and expensive realignment plan.

At Tuesday's meeting, Colwell said he was willing to work with the city to improve the intersection, which sees about one crash per month. Beyond the crashes, Colwell said drivers have constant problems trying to negotiate the intersection.

"It's continual confusion, continual fear, continual jockeying for position," Colwell said.

Whether the proposal to allow left turns onto Wimer Street will alleviate residents' concerns remains to be seen.

Proposals remain to restrict left turns where North Main intersects with Coolidge and Glenn streets, Van Ness Avenue and Central Avenue.

Some residents said they embraced the road diet project, others liked it as long as left turns were allowed, and others said the entire idea should be scrapped.

Resident Don Stone said on Tuesday that bicyclists shouldn't be encouraged to travel on North Main Street — Ashland's main route in and out of the north end of town — since they can use the Bear Creek Greenway.

He pointed to how a bridge repair project earlier this year on Lithia Way near downtown Ashland caused traffic delays when one lane was closed for construction.

"There were backups as long as two blocks in the middle of the day," Stone said.

But John Fisher-Smith, who bikes to doctors' appointments using North Main Street, said conditions need to improve for cyclists.

"I feel I have a right to ride my bicycle," he said.

The city staff recommendation about the proposed road diet will be heard by the Ashland Transportation Commission at 6 p.m. Thursday, June 23, in the Ashland Civic Center Council Chambers, 1175 E. Main St.

Any road diet plan would have to win final approval from the Ashland City Council, which is scheduled to consider the issue at 7 p.m. Aug. 2.

The soonest that any on-the-ground changes could be made would be September.

However, with a new proposal to realign Wimer and Hersey streets as part of the overall road diet plan, changes likely couldn't occur until June 2012, Faught said.


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