• Sun April 01 2012
  • Posted Oct 25, 2010
Des Moines, IA
by Jason Pulliam
October 25, 2010

The changes to traffic lanes on Ingersoll Avenue appear to be here to stay.

Des Moines City Council members tonight endorsed a traffic analysis that showed traffic accidents and related injuries are down more than 50 percent since traffic lanes were reconfigured along Ingersoll Avenue. The report came with a strong recommendation from city traffic engineers to make the changes permanent.

Councilman Chris Coleman, who cast the lone vote against the changes in September 2009, followed suit tonight when he opposed making the switch permanent.

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.

Coleman did not speak on the issue at tonight’s council meeting. On Friday, he said: “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.”

Coleman said he favors Grand Avenue as a route for bicycle lanes, which extends to West Des Moines and could have been a regional project.

No one from the public spoke for or against the changes at tonight’s council meeting.

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 before the couuncil approved the changes.

Councilwoman Christine Hensley, who helped make the sell on the Ingersoll lane changes, said the new traffic pattern has achieved its aims.

“A number of the people who were really opposed to it said: ‘You know, it has done what you said it would do to calm traffic,’” Hensley said. “I’m really pleased with it. I think it’s something that has worked very well.”

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’ve ridden my bike on it; I believe it’s safer for bicyclists,” City Traffic Engineer Gary Fox told the council tonight.

Some increases in traffic congestion and delays have occurred, although the actual increases are much less than perceived, 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 on Friday. “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.”

The three-lane approach was endorsed by the Restoration Ingersoll Committee and the city’s Traffic Safety Committee.

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  • Modified: Apr 1, 2012 by ss

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