• Mon June 21 2010
  • Posted Jun 21, 2010
Des Moines IA By Jason Pulliamn Commute times on Ingersoll Avenue have changed little since traffic lanes were reconfigured, according to city traffic studies. In early May, Ingersoll was "re-striped" between Polk Boulevard and Martin Luther King Jr. Parkway, decreasing the number of vehicle lanes from four to three. There is one lane in each direction, a center left-turn lane and bicycle lanes on both sides of the street. In the worst case, travel times increased roughly 20 seconds for westbound motorists traveling between Martin Luther King Jr. Parkway and 42nd Street during the afternoon rush hour, said Gary Fox, the city's traffic engineer. There were essentially no changes overall and slight improvements in midday vehicle travel times, he added. "There hasn't been a big impact" on commute times, Fox said. "Some of my staff and myself, as well, have driven through Ingersoll quite a bit and there's nothing extraordinarily different. I'm sure there are some issues here and there, but we just haven't seen any big problems." Traffic count statistics are still being compiled and analyzed, but there haven't been any major differences, Fox said. Some business owners argued the conversion would divert traffic and hurt business vitality along the two-mile stretch of Ingersoll. Steve Purcell, president of the Des Moines West Side Chamber of Commerce, said he isn't aware of any major problems. "It's actually been a pleasant surprise," he said. "There hasn't been a lot of backlog and things like that. It's definitely slowed traffic down, but even at lunch time there aren't as many traffic jams as people anticipated. "Overall, I think the changes are doing exactly what they were intended to do." The Ingersoll plan is part of a broader "complete streets" initiative that aims to make Des Moines streets more accessible to bicycles and pedestrians. City leaders stress that improved traffic safety and fewer crashes are the main goals of the plan, although the bike lane feature captured much of the public debate late last summer. Traffic engineers have used the "floating car technique," in which a car outfitted with global positioning system equipment takes trips up and down the street to gather travel time data. Multiple runs are made to improve statistical validity. Travel time data were collected before and after Ingersoll was re-striped for comparison. Before the changes, traffic volumes along Ingersoll Avenue ranged between 10,000 and 15,000 vehicles per day. City officials say that is ideal for a three-lane configuration. The changes were originally set to occur late last year, but were delayed to allow residents and business owners more time to adjust and ask questions. The re-striping project cost about $10,000 and increased on-street parking by about 50 spots. A six-month review is under way to determine whether the plan works. The effort will include data from traffic monitoring equipment. Polling experts will also conduct a survey of businesses and the public. Traffic lanes could be returned to the current configuration if the changes are ineffective or unsafe.

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