• Tue September 15 2009
  • Posted Sep 14, 2009
Des Moines, IA A contentious plan to reconfigure traffic lanes along Ingersoll Avenue has received a third and decisive vote of approval from the Des Moines City Council, whose members will now move to reconcile differences between supporters and opponents. Council members on Monday voted 5-1 to "restripe" Ingersoll between Polk Boulevard and Martin Luther King Jr. Parkway to decrease the number of vehicle lanes from four to three — one lane in each direction with a center lane for left turns. Mayor Frank Cownie, who owns a business on Ingersoll, abstained, and Councilman Chris Coleman voted no. The plan would cost $10,000 or less, increase the number of Ingersoll parking spaces by about 50 and add bicycle lanes in each direction. City officials stress that improved traffic safety and fewer crashes are the main goals of the plan, although the bike lane component has captured much of the public debate for over a month. "This is not a project ultimately about putting bike lanes in, or putting parking on the street or protecting retail, although all of those are very important considerations," City Manager Rick Clark said. "The primary thing that the council has to consider is public safety. You have a street here, that by any measure, is not a very safe street, and one that we think would be vastly improved by the striping that's been proposed." Some business owners have voiced concerns the changes could reduce traffic along Ingersoll and decrease visits to their establishments. Councilwoman Christine Hensley said it's time to work past hard feelings. "There needs to be a healing process, because the debate has been pretty divisive," she said. The approved changes will not go into effect until April. That's to give the public more time to ask questions and adjust to the changes. A six-month review will be conducted to determine whether the new design works. The effort will include data from traffic monitoring equipment. A survey of businesses and the public will also be conducted with the help of polling experts. Traffic lanes would be returned to their current configuration if the changes are deemed ineffective or unsafe. Opponents say the plan will hurt businesses that have struggled to rebound from recent traffic problems tied to major road projects and the $2.9 million Restoration Ingersoll project. "I can't imagine that you're even considering this," said Joe Grandanette of 637 46th St. "You plan on burying these businesses. ... You're going to keep traffic to a crawl, and the people trying to go to these businesses won't be able to get in and out." Others disagreed. "I sympathize with the businesses, but the research is there to show that it will work," said Mike Woody, 115 Glenview Drive. "What we're up against right now is a very divisive campaign that's using emotions and fear to scare people away from this project." The three-lane approach has been endorsed by the Restoration Ingersoll Committee and the city's Traffic Safety Committee. In addition to traffic safety improvements, the Ingersoll plan is part of a broader "complete streets" initiative that aims to make Des Moines streets more accessible to bicycles and pedestrians. Coleman said he is generally supportive of "complete streets," but he said he is concerned bike lanes will not work well along Ingersoll. Hensley has called for public meetings in coming months to further discuss the city's street plans and efforts to expand bicycle facilities.

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