City Council work session, Aug. 11, 2014–Valley Avenue project

Valley Avenue goes on a diet

The council met in a work session this afternoon to hear a traffic consultant’s recommendations for easing traffic congestion on portions of Valley Avenue by reducing the number of lanes from 4 to 2 and adding a dedicated center turn lane along residential areas. The road is scheduled to be resurfaced along its length using an ATRIP grant paid by federal and local tax dollars in a typical 80/20 % split. Putting the hectic corridor on the so-called “road diet” would add little cost to the project, estimated at $1.5 million in construction, according to project engineer Keith Strickland of Goodwyn Mills Cawood. Skipper Consulting, hired by Strickland to study the effect of the lane reduction, gave the following presentation.

The two intersections at 18th Street (by Vulcan) and Green Springs (by Palisades) would remain the same. The lane reductions–accompanied by signal synchronization–would be only along residential areas between those two intersections, he said. Paradoxically, traffic can be eased by reducing the number of through lanes if a dedicated turn lane is added, he said. The reason is that the inside lanes of a four-lane road become turn lanes by default during peak traffic times. Cars waiting to turn in a through-lane will stack traffic behind them, and create more opportunities for rear-end collisions.

Under the “diet”, the 44-45 -foot road width would be reduced to about 35-feet, gaining 5 feet on each side as a safety buffer for traffic exiting residential parking. This is especially important for the townhouses lining the street along the Vulcan end of Valley, he said.  He also recommended angling the townhome parking, which now are at 90-degrees to the street, and hard to navigate. All of the work would be done in the city right-of-way.

Questions raised:

Mr. Moody, looking at the study numbers, said he didn’t note a dramatic improvement on Valley, but the lane reduction and turn lanes would add wait times onto side streets. Mr. Hawkins said the safety would outweigh the slight loss. Mr. Skipper said there was very little traffic coming from the side streets; in fact, some streets didn’t need a signal at all.

Mr. Moody also said that ClasTran now stops for lengthy periods on Valley to get handicapped and elderly passengers to and from their houses; would traffic then come to a halt if there was only one lane? It was pointed out that bus could pull into the buffer area and allow traffic to pass on the left.

Mr. Wright asked if the changes would accommodate any new traffic created if the Board of Education decided to develop its property fronting Valley Avenue. Mr. Skipper suggested he ask the school board about their future plans. (Mr. Wright is the council’s school board liaison.)

At nearly 5:45 p.m., the work session was adjourned and the recommendations were addressed in a brief meeting of the Public Safety Committee, which referred it to the council meeting to follow at 6 p.m.  Mr. Strickland said he needed a decision on the “road diet” question sometime in the next two weeks.

Members present: Michael Hallman, Britt Thames, Fred Hawkins, Vance Moody, Patrick McClusky, Walter Jones, Heather Reid, Peter Wright and council president Bruce Limbaugh.

Members absent: Richard Laws

Staff present: City clerk Linda Cook, Inspections Department head Jim Wyeth, Building, Engineering and Zoning manager Greg Cobb (and others not recognized).

Audience attendance: 1

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