Views mixed over Main St. lane test

By Carlie Kollath/NEMS Daily Journal

TUPELO – Today starts the seventh week of the trial of a three-lane configuration of Main Street in downtown Tupelo.
The test originally was slated to go for six weeks, but Downtown Tupelo Main Street Association says more time is need to tweak and test the traffic lights.
The test, along with traffic data and resident response, is needed before the City Council will vote on permanent changes.
The temporary traffic configuration converts Main Street from Green to Elizabeth to one lane of traffic in each direction with a center turn lane, partial bike lanes and parallel parking spaces.
The new traffic pattern is part of the association’s $2.9 million plan to make downtown more of a destination for pedestrians, cyclists, shoppers, diners and tourists. Eighty percent of the plan is funded with state and federal money. The rest must come from local sources.
The City Council has voted to commit up to $575,000 to the project. Members said at the time that it’s their understanding that some of the amount can be contributed in “in-kind services,” which means the city can do the work instead of spending the money.
The traffic pattern has been one of the most discussed elements in the plan.
Proponents say the 3-lane configuration makes it easier to drive in the area and safer to park downtown, because the bike lane acts as a buffer when opening car doors.
Opponents say it backs up traffic more than before and causes people to avoid Main Street.
Debbie Brangenberg, executive director of Main Street, said before the test that the group would base the determination of the test’s success on some of the original goals: Is traffic able to move traffic more efficiently? Are pedestrians and cyclists safer? Are drivers safer?

How’s the test going?
Nashville-based RPM Consultants has been hired to do the official number-crunching, but there have been plenty of unofficial tests of how it’s working.
The Main Street group teamed up with the Community Development Foundation to survey the community about how long it takes people to drive through downtown.
Jon Milstead, director of planning for the Community Development Foundation, said several hundred responses have been turned in.
A preliminary review of the responses shows that it took drivers on average three minutes to drive from Green to Elizabeth before any changes were made. On average, drivers said they were stopped by two to three red lights.
During the trial, Milstead said, drivers have reported that it takes them one to two minutes to get from Green to Elizabeth street during offpeak hours. On average, drivers said they were stopped by one to two red lights.
During peak hours of the trial, Milstead said, drive time has been about three to four minutes from Green to Elizabeth.
Milstead, Brangenberg and the survey responses note that it takes longer now to get across Main Street from a side street. The test included new timing for the lights, and Milstead said vehicles now are stopped about 45 seconds longer than they were before on the side streets.
More changes will be made to the timing of the lights, with an emphasis at the Front Street light at the peak hour of 7 a.m. to 8 a.m.
The group hopes to get preliminary numbers back from the traffic consultants soon to see how other lights need to be tweaked.
The plan, Milstead said, is to leave the test in place with the adjusted lights to see how traffic flows for “another couple of weeks.”
“Then it’s up to the City Council,” he said.

Contact Carlie Kollath at (662) 678-1598 or carlie.kollath@journalinc.com.

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Your thoughts?
– You can fill out an online survey about your experience with the new downtown traffic pattern. Responses will be given to the City Council before members vote on making the switch. Weigh in online at www.surveymonkey.com/s/TupeloMainStreetTest.