Ted Hazelton: Changing Broadway is idiotic

Ted Hazelton: Changing Broadway is idiotic

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The topic of reducing travel lanes on Broadway from four to three has been raging for several year. It will go to the City Council soon for a vote. I urge council members to vote against this idiotic idea of turning Broadway into three lanes.

It is unwarranted and a waste of money and resources. Broadway is a through street designed to move a volume of traffic with great efficiency from one point to another with little disruption. Some 50-plus years ago, Broadway was widened to the current four lane that we enjoy today.

Now this proposal to reduce the travel lanes has many of us citizens scratching our heads. This seems to be a knee-jerk reaction to a problems that does not exist.

The main impetus for the Broadway road diet is pedestrian safety. If pedestrians would pay attention and not walk into the street willy-nilly with their heads buried in their phones, and make sure they are seen by motorists, we wouldn’t have this problem. I would agree that a number of years ago, there were a number of pedestrian accidents on Broadway, and something needed to be done. The City Council took the appropriate steps to make Broadway safer. There were three pedestrian-activated flashing signs installed at key intersections, along with two electronic radar speed indicator signs. They work great.

Additionally, the city and Xcel Energy installed new streetlights at all intersections in town that are much brighter to make pedestrians more visible at night. This has greatly reduced accidents on Broadway to fewer than one per year, which other streets in town have a much higher accident rate.

Before the City Council votes, it should look at Traverse City, Michigan, for guidance. A number of years ago, that city turned a four-lane street into a three-lane like Winona is proposing. The city installed curb bump-outs and a center lane for left turns at a cost of $3 million. The result was a traffic congestion nightmare. Traffic was using the side streets to get around the bottleneck, which caused more accidents. A few year later, that city spent several million dollars to remove that debacle and restore the street to the way it was.

I can see this happening in Winona.

By having only one lane in each direction, there will be a long steady stream of continuous traffic – like a parade.

It will be nearly impossible to cross Broadway at many of the side streets. This will lead to frustrated motorists taking chances to jam into traffic. I can see more accidents happening and more congestion.

When this happens, traffic go down Fifth or Seventh streets to avoid the mess on Broadway. Another problem with a single lane is that travel speed is dictated by the slowest driver. Especially if they are from Wisconsin and poking along at 22-25 mph like they do over there.

People who want to go 30 mph will either pass on the shoulder/bike lane or pass in the turn lane. Also, where does one pull over when an emergency vehicle is coming?

The dedicated left-turn lane is another bad idea. Say you’re going east on Broadway and you want to turn left to go to Midtown Foods. Another motorist is westbound on Broadway and wants to turn left to go to the Watkins Manor. Neither driver can go safely as they can’t see around each other. Especially if one is in a pickup truck, full-size van or an SUV. So then, all you can do is look at each other. If you dare try to go, you have to creep out and hope your front end doesn’t become someone else’s hood ornament. That or floor it and hope for the best.

The curb bumpouts are another bad idea. They are much harder for a large vehicle, such as a school bus or fire truck, to make a make a right turn and have to drive over the dumb thing. What about plowing snow in the winter, with large piles of snow creating visibility issues for cross traffic? How about the poor sap who has a corner lot? That person will be required to shovel all that extra snow.

Broadway does not have a design issue. Please leave it alone and keep it four lanes for ease of travel and safety. As for the bike lanes, go one block over to Seventh Street. It is a dedicated bike boulevard with marked lanes. Bicyclists should use those.

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