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April 11, 2013

Two-way initiative meets opposition

Citizens more receptive to changing Fourth and Fifth streets

Part of a comprehensive plan dictating a desire for areas of East Broadway and East Market Street to be turned into two-way streets was met by a wave of skepticism at a public meeting on the matter Wednesday.

Pam Leeman, a board member of the downtown merchant organization Logan’s Landing, outlined a proposal for the initiative at the meeting. The proposal entailed turning East Market Street from 24th Street to the bridge and East Broadway to Third Street into two-way streets. She said the benefits that would come from this would include reducing confusion particularly among motorists from out of town, improving mobility, improving aesthetics, encouraging more downtown trips, increasing traffic flow, increasing access to businesses, providing a more modest pace for traffic and eliminating indirect routes.

“This is not something we plan to do tomorrow,” Leeman told the room of about 40 people. “We’re just brining it to the attention of the community. We’re still in the learning stages. We now have the funding if it’s something we want to do.”

The funding Leeman spoke of would come from the state when it relinquishes certain streets throughout the city it currently maintains as state highways after the completion of the Hoosier Heartland Highway. Upon the highway’s completion, High Street will likely become the new state highway through town unless the city decides to go with East Broadway and use relinquishment funds to turn it into a two-way street.

Leeman said the total project cost is estimated at $9,625,800, adding that more than $8.8 million would be for refurbishing the stormwater system in the area, which Logansport Municipal Utilities is already planning to do because of a federally unfunded mandate.

Logansport Mayor Ted Franklin told attendees that the Indiana Department of Transportation’s current offer of relinquishment funds is about $3.5 million, which he said could be leveraged through a match grant to acquire more funding for the project.

Patrick Kleckner, who lives in the residential part of East Market Street, spoke at the meeting and said turning downtown streets into two-ways may lead to more dangerous traffic accidents.

“I think a head-on collision is way worse than a sideswipe or a rear-end,” he said.

Concerns were also raised by those in attendance regarding what several thought to be the implausibility of widening the roads and allowing for semi trucks to be able to turn safely.

Citing the positive effects a similar initiative had on her hometown of Richmond, Angie Berry, bank sales officer at Salin Bank, spoke in favor of the initiative. She said when she was growing up, most of the streets in Richmond were one way. After leaving and then returning as an adult, she said the city had turned some of its one-ways into two-ways downtown and she felt it was an improvement.

“I was really surprised by the vibrancy of downtown Richmond,” she said. “As a merchant, I would like to see more people come downtown. I’m not going to push it if it’s now what people want, but I encourage people to keep an open mind.”

Turning areas of Fourth and Fifth Streets downtown was also mentioned in the Logan’s Landing proposal, which attendees were much more receptive to.

Rick Schroder, owner of a barber shop on Fifth Street downtown, spoke at the meeting in favor of this part of the proposal.

“At least twice a week I see people going the wrong way on Fifth Street,” he said. “I think making it a two-way would be a good idea.”

Schroder said he did not feel the same way about East Market Street and East Broadway, however. He dismissed the notion that transforming these streets would entice more consumption in the area, saying many of Logansport’s downtown businesses are destination points.

“People do their business and then they go,” he said.

Franklin said the Indiana Department of Transportation wants an answer on the matter soon. Chris Armstrong, Logansport Community Development Director and member of the Logansport Board of Public Works and Safety, said the board would likely vote on it in the next few weeks.

Mitchell Kirk is a staff reporter at the Pharos-Tribune. He can be reached at 574-732-5130 or mitchell.kirk@pharostribune.com.

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