Home > Announcement, Engineering Design > Update: There’s Some Division St. Progress

Update: There’s Some Division St. Progress

Editor’s Note: If you were at the meeting last week, I encourage you to add details or observations I missed here.


Last Wednesday, November 10th, a small group of citizens met with City staff, area transportation agencies and the consulting firm URS to see the latest step in the process of the Division St. initiative. It’s been awhile since any news had surfaced about the project due while we waited for the traffic modeling requested by the City commission. Basically, there were some on the commission, and in the community, that needed to see that different roundabout schemes would indeed move motorized vehicles; modeling was also recommended by the engineers.

The simple answer, that I understood, is yes. Each scenario modeled will move motorized traffic equal to, or better, than what is taking place for the foreseeable future; some better than others. How we, as a community, define better is the key question. The engineers have provided some results to help us make those choices and, with most things, there is no clear answer.

The modeling that presented last week provides data and visuals for the auto-centric concerns: “trucks”, “back-ups” and “ability to turn.” Other issues falling under Safety, Context, Quality and Access still need further attention and means to measure them. It’s instructive to return to the following graphic for a reminder of the project’s “Purpose and Need.”

Steadily Moving Forward

The community has asked for Division St. to no longer be a divide between the west and east side. We also want to improve quality of life for the residents who live along the corridor and the improve vitality of the businesses that do and will exist along the corridor. Yes, it’s a state trunkline, but it also needs to work in the context of the neighborhood it is in.

My position has been clear. We have a compromise solution on the table and no other. That’s not to say we couldn’t come up with one, but we haven’t fully followed through with the roundabout plan and status quo is not acceptable. Last week’s meeting needs to be seen in the context of a meticulous process of different agencies and different concerns that are both expected and necessary. Some of that is institutional and needs to start as soon as possible. The recommendation last week was for the City to consider starting with one roundabout. Proposed intersections were either: 14th, 11th or Front St. Emphasizes being made that by choosing to begin with one, the community is still at the very beginning of the process. It was also suggested that perhaps the City begins introducing them in less contested places, but I don’t think that excludes moving forward here. (check back for a few suggestions on other locations).

For the majority of us, that means asking ourselves some difficult questions. How invested in altering the status of this corridor are we? What is the information that will help us contribute to the discussion? How can we help facilitate the process?

How do you want Division St. to look, function, feel?

I wish I had more doable items to share. I can say, that this project will need consistent and diverse citizen input to keep it on the City’s agenda. A big role we have is do just that. We don’t need to be traffic experts or know the ins-and-outs of traffic modeling to know that we want to see respectful, transparent and committed progress towards a better city. A question I will be asking is, “What is the process?

Please, create a list of questions you have. Share them here. Share them with neighbors. Share them with city staff and city commissioners. If you want to be more involved with the city’s loosely knit steering group, email the city planner and city manager and asked to be put on the Division Street Initiative/Roundabout contact list. I expect a discussion meeting in the near future.

MyWHaT will keep you posted as best as possible.

NOTE: If any of you would like to meet with me to discuss the issue, please do not hesitate to ask. Send me an email and let’s meet for coffee.

  1. Raymond
    November 17, 2010 at 11:56 am

    Thanks for the meeting summary. The modeling report showed some positive results for flow, but failed to show what kind of reduction (if any) there would be in the top speeds of vehicles on Division. What is the expected (and very important) moderating effect of roundabouts? High vehicle speeds and high speed differentials are some of the most negative and dangerous characteristics of Division.

    Also, any more discussion about the geometry of the URS designs, whether they are supported by Ian Lockwood and others who are more concerned with neighborhoods vs. truck flow?

  2. Brian Haas
    November 17, 2010 at 2:23 pm

    The Old Towne neighborhood association is currently working on solutions to address vehicle speeds through our streets (Union and Cass). From all the research literature that I have found, travel lane width (actual or perceived) is the determinant factor for vehicle speed. That is, a narrow travel lane will result in lower speeds. I haven’t come across any research that suggests that roundabouts themselves reduce speeds, other than reducing the need to race from one stop light to the next. As long as we design and build wide, straight roads for 40+ mph, we’ll have people going faster than the posted speeds of 25 (See Division and new 8th streets).

  3. November 17, 2010 at 9:10 pm

    I completely agree that narrow lanes need to be a part of the mix to reduce speeds, the difficulty is that Division St. being an MDOT trunkline limits the options. I’m drawing a blank, but believe 12 ft will be as narrow as they will allow. There are other measures, like street lighting and trees, that will help and there has been a list of possible measures created and sent to the City and to MDOT–I’ll post those soon.

    However, addressing the feeling of the corridor won’t solve the Division St. issues alone. The accessibility issues require some intersection work. Unfortunately, at this time the community doesn’t seem ready for a big overhaul, but that doesn’t mean we shouldn’t try on at least one intersection. From the observation of roundabouts and research I’ve done, some of it collected here, but the FHWA resource is really comprehensive, I trust that the roundabouts will have, to use Raymond’s description, a moderating impact on the speeds within the corridor. (I include the FHWA description of corridor impact below, and it points to one hope of mine: with roundabouts and a plateauing of traffic numbers, we may see the day when we can reduce the travel lanes in between the intersections.)

    The intersections of an appropriately designed modern roundabout will create yielding upon entry, reduction of the straight shot along the corridor, and the flaring of the entry will reduce speeds, and increase caution, at the intersections. As well, by reducing the platooning affect of a series of signalized intersections, the impact of group speed, like group think, should be reduced.

    There is a real impact of people ‘racing to get the green light’, ‘to beat the red’, or to ‘hurry up and shift lanes’ are primary reasons for acceleration between 7th and 14th, in either direction. A roundabout at 11th could help limit the sight line and reduce some of those instincts. Roundabouts as a tool have shown to smooth the average speed to something more predictable. Vehicle speeds, and there control, are a question to keep asking the professionals though.

    Corridors –
    “Roundabouts present opportunities to shape the cross section of a corridor in ways that are perhaps different from those afforded by signalized intersections. Signalized intersections operate most efficiently when they manage the advancement of platoons of traffic. This requires sufficient through lanes between signals to maintain the integrity of these platoons. Roundabouts, on the other hand, produce efficiency through a gap acceptance process and thus do not carry the same need for platoon progression. As a result, roundabouts can be made as large as needed for node capacity, keeping the links between nodes more narrow. This concept is sometimes referred to as a “wide nodes, narrow roads” concept. The reduced number of travel lanes between intersections may make it feasible to reduce right-of-way impacts and to accommodate parking, wider sidewalks, planter strips, and bicycle lanes.

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