EDITORIAL: Main Street flow

By NEMS Daily Journal

Tupelo’s decision to move forward with a “dress rehearsal” of proposed Main Street lane reconfigurations in portions of downtown will provide only part of the information needed to make a final determination about spending $2.9 million through MDOT and a city match for enhancements on the street extending to east Tupelo.
Downtown Tupelo Main Street Executive Director Debbie Brangenberg said Wednesday afternoon that the time, average speed and traffic volume figures finally gathered by the traffic consulting firm RPM of Brentwood, Tenn., will help separate “facts from fictions” about downtown traffic patterns and what positive changes realigning lanes could accomplish.
Consultant Bob Murphy with RPM said his firm, already under contract, has tabulated average speed and drive times eastbound and westbound in the four-lane stretch from Church Street to the exit/access ramps at Main Street and U.S. 45. The test period, set to begin by Valentine’s Day, Feb. 14, would use a three-lane alignment and synchronized signals.
The averages so far compiled measure three peak traffic times – morning, mid-day and late afternoon-early evening – and reflect non-synchronized traffic signal lights and stops required of some drivers:
• Eastbound traffic required in minutes and seconds: 2.03 morning; 3.14 mid-day; and 3.19 afternoon-evening. The average speeds for the same times were 22.5 mph; 14.4 mph; and 14.1 mph.
• Westbound traffic minutes and seconds: 2.37 morning; 2.56 mid-day; and 2.47 afternoon-evening; average speeds were 17.9 mph; 16 mph; and 16.8 mph.
Murphy said a goal in a three-lane configuration with synchronized traffic signals would be a smoother traffic flow with fewer traffic-light stops and less time spent waiting to make left turns.
Brangenberg said if nothing else comes from the study and decision-making process a left-turn signal would be installed at Front and Main, a problematic intersection for turning against the traffic flow. A final decision on what changes to make, if any, is months away. The final RPM report won’t be presented until probably in April.
We agree with Brangenberg’s advice: Drivers moving through downtown should measure their own driving times and wait times for comparison with the RPM findings. While averages are accurate for what they measure, frequent drivers in downtown Tupelo know every day presents a differing situation. Driving times accurately recorded by regular downtown drivers should be factored into the body of information.
As long as Main Street remains the chief east-west city thoroughfare, traffic flow is paramount.