City Outlines Traffic Changes for Downtown Ashland

 

 

Emily C. Roush

The Ashland Beacon

 

   The City of Ashland is considering significant changes to downtown parking and the traffic flow on Winchester Avenue. Although brought up by the City Commission before, the discussion is again gaining traction. “The topic of slowing our downtown and making it more pedestrian friendly has been a conversation brought up by the commission for the past few years,” stated Michelle Grubb, the City of Ashland’s Public Information Officer. She continued, “when international downtown development expert Roger Brooks visited Ashland, he spoke of downtowns being for people not vehicles. Commissioner Amanda Clark then resurfaced the desire for moving Winchester down to two lanes and adding angled parking during a commission meeting.”

   After parking was again mentioned in a commission meeting, KYOVA Interstate Planning Commission contacted the city with a funding source to conduct a feasibility study. The city government worked with both KYOVA and the Kentucky Travel Cabinet (KYTC) to hire a third-party entity, Palmer Engineering, for the study. The study thoroughly examined multiple facets of the downtown traffic pattern. “Palmer Engineering conducted traffic counts, determined peak a.m. and p.m. hours, completed a parking inventory survey, studied crash history and analysis from not only vehicle to vehicle but vehicle to person, injuries and/or deaths, and examined bicycle & pedestrian safety measures,” described Grubb.             

   During the April 8 City Commission Meeting, a representative from Palmer Engineering presented the firm’s findings. Below is an outline of each alternative option:

 Alternative One:

1.  Remove one through lane in each direction along Winchester Avenue between 13th Street and 18th Street.

2.  Remove parallel parking and replace it with pull‐in angled parking.

3.  Add curb bulb‐outs at each intersection to protect parked cars and reduce the crossing distances for pedestrians.

4.  Add mid‐block crossing between 15th Street and 16th Street.

 Alternative Two:

1.  Remove one through lane in each direction along Winchester Avenue between 13th Street and 18th Street.

2.  Replace signalized intersections at 14th Street, 15th Street, 17th Street, and 18th Street with mini roundabouts.

3.  Replace signalized intersection at 16th Street with a two‐way stop‐controlled intersection.

4.  Remove parallel parking and replace it with angled parking that vehicles will back into.

5.  Add curb bulb‐outs at each intersection to protect parked cars and reduce the crossing distance for pedestrians.

6.  Add five‐foot‐wide raised median through improvement area.

7.  Add mid‐block crossing between 15th Street and 16th Street. 

 Alternative Three:

1.  Remove one through lane in each direction along Winchester Avenue between 13th Street and 18th Street.

2.  Replace signalized intersections at 14th Street, 15th Street, 17th Street, and 18th Street with mini roundabouts.

3.  Change 14th Street to be two‐way from Carter Avenue to Greenup Avenue.

4.  Replace signalized intersection at 16th Street with a two‐way stop‐controlled intersection.

5.  Close opening at 16th Street so that it becomes right‐in, right‐out. Traffic wishing to travel across Winchester Avenue or turn left onto Winchester Avenue would turn right and traverse a mini‐roundabout and travel back toward 16th Street.

6.  Remove parallel parking and replace it with angled parking that vehicles will back into.

7.  Add curb bulb‐outs at each intersection to protect parked cars and reduce the crossing distance for pedestrians.

8.  Add five‐foot‐wide raised median through improvement area.

9.  Parallel Parking added on Winchester Ave between 13th and 14th Street.

   According to Grubb, these proposed parking/traffic have potential benefits that reach beyond the city’s original scope of driving the downtown economy and promoting tourism. “While the city was looking at this from a community and economic development improvement perspective, the data from the study lead KYTC [to see] it as a safety improvement opportunity. The presented alternatives provide a viable marriage between the two. Often referred to as the safety trifecta: Traffic diets (reducing lanes) Mini roundabouts (keep traffic flowing calmly, reducing crashes, and improves air quality from vehicles not idling at lights) and back-in angled parking. The back-in angle park increases visibility of the driver when pulling into traffic, does not force pedestrians into traffic to enter/exist vehicle or even load things into the trunk. This also provides increased safety for families. When letting children out of the vehicle, the car door becomes a barrier to the street, leaving the sidewalk open. The second and third options accomplish this.”

   Since these tentative options were just brought before the city commission last month, this project is still in its earliest stages. The next stage will be a public comment period. “As this study has just been completed and submitted, no public comment sessions have been scheduled as of yet,” explained Grubb. She continued, “once the public comment period has been set, the City of Ashland will publish a multimedia approach with all the details for how to share feedback.” Although the formal public comment period has not yet started, Grubb noted that people have already began expressing their viewpoints. “Any type of change can bring a certain level of caution but, overall, the reaction has been positive,” she said. 

   Grubb also outlined how the planning and design processes will happen once the initial public comment period closes. “After funding is secured for the project, a survey can be done for the project followed by a preliminary and final design. During the design process, an environmental document will be completed, and additional public opinion and involvement will be obtained. Based on the outcome of the environmental document and the public’s opinion, alterations may be made to the current design of the project.” 

   Cost and funding are two aspects of the parking and traffic changes that are particularly important to both the city government and the citizens of Ashland. During the presentation at the April 8 commission meeting, Palmer Engineering offered the following construction cost estimates: $2.5 million for Alternative One, $3 million for Alternative Two, and $3 million for Alternative Three. Although the project is preliminary and the above costs are estimates, the city is already looking into funding sources. “Funding options are currently being investigated. There are potential grants from KYTC using [Highway Safety Improvement Program] funds or funding options through KYOVA Interstate Planning Commission,” noted Grubb. 

   The full video recording from the April 8 Palmer Engineering presentation including questions and discussion with the commissioners and City Manager Mike Graese is available online at https://www.ashlandky.gov/. Updates about the project and the announcement of the public comment period will also be published on the website as well as the City of Ashland’s official social media pages.


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