• Sat October 23 2010
  • Posted Oct 23, 2010
by Jason Pulliam October 22, 2010 A recent city report that showed traffic accidents and related injuries are down more than 50 percent since traffic lanes were reconfigured along Ingersoll Avenue wasn't enough to sway at least one Des Moines City Council member to back the changes. Councilman Chris Coleman, who cast the lone vote against the changes in September 2009, continues to oppose the new traffic pattern on Ingersoll. 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. A six-month review - using traffic data and public surveys - was conducted to gauge the effectiveness of the changes. "This period of time has been safer than I worried it might be," Coleman said today. "I expect that the council will approve it long-term. I'm still not going to vote for it. I think when we have an accident, it will be a dangerous accident, and I'm just not satisfied that Ingersoll is the best solution for that. "I'm in favor of a bike route through there. I think Grand Avenue is a better location. There's less on-street parking, there's fewer commercial buildings where there's traffic and it extends all the way out to far West Des Moines. It could have made a very good regional project." On Monday, council members are expected to receive a recommendation to make the changes permanent. Councilwoman Christine Hensley, who helped make the sell on the Ingersoll lane changes, strongly differs with Coleman's point of view. "Obviously, I disagree," she said. "The report substantiates that we made the right decision. We went through the pilot phase and a 50-percent decrease in traffic accidents and injuries is really significant. And that's looking at it compared to a (multi) year period." City leaders have stressed 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. The re-striping project cost about $10,000 and increased on-street parking by about 50 spots. The Ingersoll plan is part of a broader "complete streets" initiative that aims to make Des Moines streets more accessible to bicycles and pedestrians. Had the changes been deemed unsafe or ineffective, the traffic lanes would have been returned to the original configuration. "I think it still creates a very dangerous situation," Coleman said. "I can't argue that we dodged a bullet this year, but I continue worry about the logic of people backing into a bike path in which it's very hard to see in many locations up and down Ingersoll." Some increases in traffic congestion and delays have occurred, although the actual increases are much less than perceived, City Traffic Engineer Gary Fox wrote in a recent report provided to the City Council. Changes in overall travel times on Ingersoll during peak morning and noon commutes were insignificant, with the greatest increases seen during the afternoon rush hour, Fox reported. However, the increases were only about 20 seconds for westbound traffic from Martin Luther King Jr. Parkway to 42nd Street. Daily traffic volumes on Ingersoll have also increased slightly. Traffic counts on Grand Avenue have not increased, which shows there has not been a substantial diversion of traffic from Ingersoll. Crash data showed a reduction in accidents of more than 50 percent compared with the previous three-year average for the same months, and a reduction in injuries of more than 50 percent. No crashes that involved pedestrians, bicycles or buses were reported during the trial phase. "You're never going to have everybody be supportive of it," Hensley said. "But it did exactly what we wanted it to do. It decreased accidents and it's a calmer environment. You don't have cars zipping around each other, and people who were originally quite opposed are thinking this is good."

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