From: Jeanine Black
As a citizen of and voter in Winona, I provide questions and comments on the “proposed” reconstruction of Broadway.
1. Why the limited notice and comment period? At this time, most people in Winona are focused on their health and jobs due to COVID-19. There are no scheduled public hearings and limited advertisement of the plan and comment period (local newspapers and city website). This gives the appearance that proponents of this project are trying to limit input from those who might oppose it. Let’s slow down and make sure the community is truly in favor of such drastic changes to one of the city’s key east-west thoroughfares.
2. Are the measures outlined in the proposal the best way to improve pedestrian safety? As reported by Chris Rogers in the Winona Post (December 30, 2019), the measures implemented since 2013 (button-activated flashing signs, radar speed signs, public awareness campaign) have resulted in fewer accidents. The second sentence on the city website seems to indicate that the project is as much about bicycles as about pedestrians: “This project is primarily intended to improve pedestrian safety, as well as create a safer roadway for drivers and cyclists.” Let’s continue to improve pedestrian safety using methods that have proven to be effective here in Winona. Let’s continue to promote bicycle lanes, but on streets parallel to Broadway, which would be safer for drivers, cyclists and pedestrians.
3. What about unintended consequences? A key lesson I learned in my years as a transportation advocate and lobbyist in Washington, D.C., is that when government agencies or elected officials rush to “fix” a problem, there are often unintended consequences. Based on my research and personal experience in other cities, unintended consequences of limiting traffic flow on a key roadway include various levels of road rage. Drivers frustrated by congestion speed to “make up” for lost time — either on the main thoroughfare (as soon as slow drivers turn off) or on parallel streets (thereby reducing pedestrian safety on that street). In addition, emergency vehicles have more difficulty responding to needs when congestion increases. Winona needs to strike the right balance between pedestrian safety and traffic flow. Let’s not rush to implement a program that has a high likelihood of unintended consequences, which could reduce safety and delay emergency response.
4. This won’t cost the city anything, right? There is no such thing as “free money.” Depending on one’s point of view, a government grant can be seen as a way to (help) pay for a local need (or “want”) or as a waste of taxpayer money. A downside of government grants — and other government allocations — is that if you don’t spend all the money, you may not get more. (You may have to return grant monies or you may have your budget reduced in the next cycle.) Let’s return the grant money. Government agencies are overwhelmed by the costs related to COVID-19.
5. What else could be done? (1) Periodic limited speed enforcement. (2) Periodic “surprise” enforcement on Broadway of hand-held cell phone use and texting while driving. (3) Targeted public information campaigns, e.g., WSU students, public library patrons, churches and other organizations located on Broadway. (4) Additional button-activated flashing signs at intersections with high numbers of pedestrians — as identified by local input. (5) Consider not allowing “right on red” when entering or exiting Broadway. (6) Consider a local ordinance that prohibits people from texting while crossing intersections (and railroad tracks).
CONCLUSION: I am strongly opposed to “reshaping Broadway” and to the seeming rush to do so.