Helping Motorists & Pedestrians Navigate More Safely And Efficiently

Motorists will very likely need some time to get used to the more dramatic traffic changes proposed by city officials, such as converting Ewing Street and Fairfield Avenue from one-way to two-way streets and then adding a roundabout where they meet. But the adjustments should help both motorists and pedestrians navigate the altered terrain more safely and efficiently.

During his State of the City speech last month, Mayor Tom Henry announced several downtown traffic projects, including reducing Jefferson and Washington boulevards by one lane and the Ewing and Fairfield changes.

“It’s all about economic development and business development from my standpoint,” said John Urbahns, director of community development. “We’re just trying to make some changes that make it more attractive to come downtown.”

Changes to downtown were designed to attract more people, including pedestrians and bicyclists. Parkview Field, for example, draws thousands of people to the area, especially in the summer. Traffic needs to be adjusted so that motorists can travel downtown efficiently, but also so that pedestrians have a safe and pleasant walk.

The impetus for the proposed changes comes from the city’s Downtown Blueprint. Urbahns noted that the city has already made significant improvements, such as sidewalk improvements and pedestrian countdown timers. Calhoun Street was converted from one-way to two-way traffic.

Support for the Calhoun conversion was far from unanimous. But the change does make it easier to get through downtown. Downtown businesses, especially those on the southern end of Calhoun, seem to have noticeably benefited.

Urbahns said businesses prefer being on a two-way street because it gives them better visibility and more traffic passing by. It can often be easier for customers to get to the business.

However, the proposed changes do come with potential disadvantages. While the lane reductions on Jefferson and Washington will calm traffic for pedestrians, it will add time to a trip through downtown. City officials estimate it will add a minute and believe the additional time won’t significantly harm motorists.

The other concern is that the proposal calls for installing a roundabout at Superior Street, Wells Street, Fairfield and Ewing once Ewing and Fairfield become two-way streets. Roundabouts have become more common, but too many Fort Wayne drivers remain baffled about how to correctly navigate roundabouts.

After the conversion, the intersection will go from having four approaches to having five. “A traffic signal at that type of intersection is not the most efficient,” said Shan Gunawardena, city traffic engineer.

The roundabout keeps traffic flowing and reduces emissions because vehicles are not idling at traffic lights. “And it’s safer if you do have an accident because it’s at a slow rate rather than a high rate of speed that you see at a signalized intersection,” Gunawardena said.

He said Carmel has gone almost exclusively to roundabout intersections and points to the success of the roundabouts at IPFW and Old Mill Road.

“It doesn’t take a lot of training to learn how to use it. People figure it out very quickly,” Gunawardena said.

The Jefferson lane reduction will be the first of the projects completed since one lane is already closed for construction of The Harrison. The remaining projects are still in the conceptual phase. Results from a study expected at the end of March or in early April will give city leaders a better understanding of the feasibility and overall costs of the proposal.

Residents have plenty of time to get used to the changes and to practice driving through a roundabout.

-Journal Gazette

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Categories: Goverment, Transit

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