The Gazette covers City Hall, now a flood-damaged icon on May's Island in the Cedar River

West side wants turn lanes, says council member Justin Shields

In Brian Fagan, City Hall, Justin Shields, Monica Vernon on March 21, 2008 at 6:07 pm

Nearly to the person, the City Council this week went on and on about the need to make sure that East Post Road SE remains a picturesque drive.

Council members Brian Fagan, Monica Vernon and others insisted, too, that their interest in a road-design approach called context sensitive design wasn’t limited to just East Post Road SE and the east side of the city.

The design approach seeks to incorporate aesthetics and amenities – trees, bike lanes, pedestrian access, for instance — into road projects while looking for solutions to traffic congestion and safety issues beyond just making streets wider and straighter.

The concept surfaced locally in 2005 when the city announced the first stages of a proposal that might have widened First Avenue East from the current five lanes to seven lanes. The public objected.

Vernon this week was particularly impassioned about the topic, saying that the city needed to find ways to “calm” traffic. Keeping or adding curves in roads is one way to do that, she said.

Vernon’s comments grew from the East Post Road SE debate, in which the position of residents who use the road and the council is that the road should not be widened, straightened or turned into any kind of thoroughfare.

The city’s engineering staff and the city’s consulting engineers had been suggesting adding a turn lane to the East Post Road bridge at Indian Creek as part of a plan to replace the existing two-lane bridge, but residents feared the extra lane was a pretext for widening the road.

The council this week made it clear it didn’t want a turn lane on the new bridge: “The idea that we need any kind of turn lane there is just preposterous to me,” said Vernon.

 She then went further, suggesting that the city question the need for turn lanes in some other street projects in the city.

The council voice was nearly one as members emphasized their support for beautification and need for new approaches in future city street projects.

There wasn’t much heard from those who like city streets to get them some place expeditiously.

But west-side council member Justin Shields did attempt to draw a line: “I do want some turn lanes on the west side,” Shields said.

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