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    'Road diet' draws mixed reviews so far
  • The opening week of North Main Street's "road diet" has done little to settle differences of opinion over whether re-striping the main vein into Ashland will benefit community members and commuters.
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  • The opening week of North Main Street's "road diet" has done little to settle differences of opinion over whether re-striping the main vein into Ashland will benefit community members and commuters.
    Crews last week blasted off old road stripes and applied new ones to create more room for bicyclists and pedestrians, reducing the street's former four car lanes to two lanes, a center turn lane, and two bike lanes.
    The new configuration will be tested for one year to see whether it provides more room for bicyclists and pedestrians without causing major traffic woes.
    "I think it's great," said 41-year-old Chris Keefe, of Ashland, who travels North Main Street frequently by both bike and car. "It makes sense for the road."
    Keefe said he thinks the bike lanes "make it much safer," and that the center turn lane "benefits the flow of traffic."
    Ashlander Bob Hershey, 48, who steers a Mt. Shasta Spring Water Co. freight truck into downtown Ashland from Medford each weekday via North Main Street, doesn't see it that way.
    "I think it sucks," said Hershey, who has been driving professionally for more than 20 years. He called the re-striping a "typical Ashland move."
    "It's not safe," he said. "It was already scary with traffic in two lanes."
    Another freight driver, who wished not to be named, pointed out the road striping was done after the tourist season. "Come summer, that thing will be backed up, definitely," he said.
    The city analyzed car, bicycle and pedestrian data before the road diet went into effect, and various measurements will continue to be taken during the trial — including bicycle and pedestrian counts and the time it takes to drive through the reconfigured part of North Main Street, said Ashland Public Works Director Mike Faught.
    A traffic study, done by Portland-based transportation engineering firm Kittelson and Associates in June 2011, determined that an average car ride along North Main Street between its intersections with Helman and Maple streets would increase by about 22 seconds under the "road diet."
    Over the same span, the trip for southbound traffic would increase by about eight seconds, the study showed.
    The "road diet" extends from Helman Street north to Jackson Road, which is near a railroad overpass. The Maple Street intersection contains the last northbound traffic signal on North Main.
    Ed Karlovich, 58, of Ashland, said people are getting too worked up about the road change.
    "I know some people say they can't stand it, but I think it's worth a try," he said. "It's probably too early to tell what effect it will have."
    Resident Laurie Nielsen, 65, said she was "very impressed" by the road's new capacity and clear signage.
    "There is plenty of room for cars, plenty of rooms for bikes "… it's a lot safer for bikes," she said. "We don't need a thoroughfare road through Ashland."
    Resident Maryanne Cohan, 61, said the bike lanes were a great idea.
    "Anything to promote pedal power, as opposed to gasoline power," she said.
    Included in the "road diet" are prohibitions on left turns onto North Main from Coolidge Street, Glenn Street, Van Ness Avenue and Central Avenue.
    The restrictions are expected to force more traffic onto other side streets that still allow left turns onto North Main, including Manzanita, where traffic is expected to increase from 690 vehicle trips per day to 1,140. Manzanita resident Vicki Capp said she's noticed a few illegal turns and confused looking drivers since the switch, but no significant increases in congestion on North Main or Manzanita.
    Capp was opposed to the "road diet" when the city was considering the change.
    "I think it's still a little early to tell what impact it will have," she said. "Traffic is not as heavy as it usually is."
    The cost of the "road diet" totaled $174,000, with $15,000 coming from the city of Ashland and the rest from Oregon Department of Transportation grants.
    Reach reporter Sam Wheeler at 541-499-1470 or email swheeler@dailytidings.com.
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