From: Ted Hazelton
The topic of reducing travel lanes on Broadway from four to three has been raging on for several years now. It will go to the City Council in the near future 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” which is designated to move a volume of traffic with great efficiency from one point to another with little disruption to that flow. Some 50-plus years ago, Broadway was widened to the current four lanes 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 problem 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 was a number of pedestrian accidents on Broadway, and something needed to be done. The City Council did 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 street lights at all intersections in town that are much brighter to make pedestrians more visible at night. This has greatly reduced the accidents on Broadway to fewer than one per year, while other streets in town have a much higher accident rate.
Before the City Council votes on this, they should look at Traverse City, Mich., for guidance. A number of years ago, they turned a four-lane street into a three-lane street like Winona is proposing. This street got curb “bumpouts” and a center suicide lane for left turns. They spent close to $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 years later, they spent several million dollars to remove that debacle, and restore the street back to the way it was! I can see this happening in Winona. Come on City Council, plan ahead on this!
By having only one lane in each direction, there will be a long, steady stream of continuous traffic that will keep coming, like being at 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 will 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 that want to go 30 mph will either pass on the shoulder/bike lane or pass in the suicide lane. Also, where does one pull over when an emergency vehicle is coming?
The “dedicated left turn lane” is another bad idea. There is a reason many people call them suicide lanes. Say you’re going east on Broadway and you want 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, inch by inch, 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 (school bus, fire truck, garbage truck, or a pickup towing a trailer) to make a right turn and have to drive over the dumb thing. What about plowing snow in the winter months going around those? There would be large piles of snow near the intersection creating visibility issues for cross traffic. How about the poor sap that has a corner lot? They will be required to shovel all that extra snow around these things. 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 this.