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Study on road diet impacts to be expanded

Cost has gone up, but ODOT will foot the bill
 Posted: 2:00 AM October 04, 2013

The Oregon Department of Transportation is paying for an expanded study of impacts from the North Main Street road diet, which reduced car lanes to make room for new bike lanes.

The city of Ashland originally hired Southern Oregon Transportation Engineering to study the road diet for $17,000, but the total amount has now increased to $26,000.

ODOT grant funding is covering the study costs.

Ashland Public Works Director Mike Faught said ODOT wants to have thorough data on the pilot project.

"They're interested in having some good data at the end of the day because they may want to apply it in other parts of the state," Faught said.

In October 2012, the road was re-striped to reduce four car lanes to two with a center turn lane. New bike lanes were added to the road.

Ashland city councilors will review road diet impacts in December and decide whether to keep the configuration in place or stripe the road again to return it to its original layout.

Southern Oregon Transportation Engineering has been studying various impacts, including changes in vehicle speeds and bicycle use of the corridor.

The firm has been doing additional work, including more research on traffic delays and spacing between vehicles, meeting with city staff and residents, and reviewing public comments that have been submitted via the city's Open City Hall online forum, according to city staff.

The data will help councilors decide whether to keep the road diet in place.

Councilor Greg Lemhouse said the study on impacts will cost more than originally planned, but the city is being responsive to comments and concerns from residents.

"Some of it is due to some of the community questions that have been raised in various forums," he said. "This is in response to a lot of really good input and time people have put into it."

Reactions so far to the road diet have been mixed.

Some cyclists have said they feel safer and are using the road diet section more often, but some residents have said they aren't seeing much of an increase in biking there.

Some drivers have said traffic flows more smoothly now that people are no longer switching lanes and jockeying for position, and the center turn lane is a safety improvement.

Other drivers have said they feel trapped behind slow vehicles, are having difficulty turning onto North Main Street from side streets and see traffic backups.

Some worry that the road diet has diverted traffic onto neighborhood streets.

The road diet cost $187,500, most of which was covered by the Oregon Department of Transportation.

The city will get input on the road diet from a survey of 1,000 residents and 50 businesses being done by the Southern Oregon University Research Center at a cost to the city of $13,865.

The city is also seeking input through its Open City Hall online forum at

Staff reporter Vickie Aldous can be reached at 541-479-8199 or

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