Fairfield Ledger

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Neighbors Growing Together | Mar 22, 2018

Cost of two-way streets discussed

By Andy Hallman, Ledger news editor | Feb 26, 2018

The Fairfield Wayfinding Commission is advocating a return to two-way streets around the square, and on Thursday night the city council’s public safety and transportation committee heard some rough figures of what it would cost.

The city has a number of options, from the most basic plan to repaint the lines, to a more involved plan with new nodes and asphalt overlay.

City Engineer Melanie Carlson said converting the downtown to two-way will result in fewer parking spaces. She estimated the city would lose one parking space on the streets west, north and east of Central Park, plus a few more if nodes are added.

She gave the committee a rough cost estimate for repainting the lines on South Court Street between East Burlington and East Washington. To grind off the old lines, paint new ones and put up a few street signs would cost $7,100 on that block alone. Laying a fog seal would cost $31,900. Laying a hot mix asphalt overlay with nodes would cost $184,600. Doing that to nine blocks in the downtown would cost $1.7 million.

Carlson said this is a bigger project than she realized at the outset of her research.

“It’s more than just repainting lines,” she said.

Committee member Michael Halley liked the idea of remodeling South Court Street first as a way of getting locals accustomed to the change, before proceeding with the entire downtown. To save money, he recommended just repainting the lines on South Court.

Street superintendent Darrel Bisgard had a different point of view. He didn’t like the idea of trying to grind off the old lines, nor did he like the fog seal. He favored the 2-inch asphalt overlay.

Bisgard didn’t see an advantage to doing a piecemeal experiment with two-way streets on South Court. He said it made sense to make all the streets two-way at the same time.

“If we’re going to do it, let’s do it right,” he said.

Police Chief David Thomas was asked if it was safer to ease the two-way streets in over time or do them all at once.

“It’s not really a safety concern because people are driving at such low speeds,” he said.

Thomas was in favor of “ripping the band aid off” and changing the streets at the same time.

The committee took no action on two-way streets.

At a city council meeting in December, assistant director of the Fairfield Convention & Visitors Bureau and chairwoman of the Fairfield Wayfinding Commission Terry Baker said there are several advantages to switching from one-way to two-way streets. She said two-way streets are easier to navigate because they allow for more direct routes and are better for businesses on the “exit” side of a formerly one-way street (where the one-way street meets another street).


Pence traffic

The committee discussed alleviating traffic congestion at Pence Elementary School.

The committee considered a proposal to make South Sixth Street, on the east side of Pence, one-way during school hours. Pence Principal Chuck Benge said three parents of the 300 who have kids in school have complained to him about greater traffic congestion this year.

“I’m from Burlington, so to me the traffic is nothing,” he said. “I think the traffic flows fine.”

He said he doubted that making the street one-way would help the traffic flow better.

Carlson studied the issue by spending an afternoon recording the behavior of vehicles outside Pence, such as where they turned after picking up a child. She concluded there was no need for a one-way. The main thing she saw was too many people using their cell phones while driving.

Benge said the school plans to add roll-out stop signs to slow down traffic. Bisgard told him that using roll-out stop signs required council’s approval, specifically an ordinance.

Since neither Benge nor Carlson saw a need for a one-way street, the committee voted it down. Instead, the committee recommended making one side of Polk Avenue no parking to make it easier to traverse. The committee left it up to Bisgard which side of the street would have the no parking signs. The signs would be between Fifth and Sixth streets.

Committee members Halley and Katy Anderson voted in favor of the no parking signs. Member Doug Flournoy was absent.


Long-term parking

The committee spoke about how some of the public parking lots are being misused. Two parking lots in town offer spots specifically for “long-term parking,” which were intended to be a place someone could park their car a few weeks while on vacation. One lot that has them is north of the Fairfield Senior Citizen Center, and the other is on the northeast corner of East Broadway Avenue and North B Street.

Code enforcement officer Scott Vaughan said the public is not using the spots as intended, particularly at the parking lot on East Broadway. He said cars sit there for months at a time.

Bisgard said what’s worse is that people who live downtown don’t move their cars to the municipal parking lots after a snowfall, which prevents city crews from properly clearing the streets. He said that’s has been a constant struggle on North Main Street between Broadway and Briggs. The committee voted 2-0 to remove the long-term parking signs at the parking lot on East Broadway.

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