City says highway expansion is still on the table

The N’West Iowa Review reported this past weekend that Sioux Center’s Main Street expansion is still a possibility:

City leaders unveiled its [sic] newest five-year capital improvement plan to the Sioux Center City Council on Oct. 10. One of the items on the plan was the controversial road expansion.

Later in the article city manager Paul Clousing is quoted saying the controversy has died down, and he hears more from people grumbling how long it takes to get on Main or across town. Clousing also stated he believes that after a few more years there will be traffic growth (of which there is ZERO evidence) making an expansion necessary.

Of course it’s not true that everyone opposing expansion has changed their mind, and the facts have not changed about the lack of need for expansion, as former Iowa DOT head of safety Tom Welch has explained. Increasing lanes often increases congestion and commute times, as local parking expert Warren Vander Helm has explained. What is good for efficient traffic flow and safety is three lanes with properly designed intersections and signals adjusted to traffic flow patterns.

Mr. Welch has pointed out how this was done in Des Moines along Ingersoll Ave. in response to traffic congestion at MUCH higher daily average traffic volume than we have in Sioux Center. In Des Moines these minor adjustments were made along with a lane REDUCTION from 4 to 3 lanes. After the predicable initial hurdles and disbelief that this could work, the Des Moines City Council and the public voted in favor of sticking with the reduction once they saw how well it worked. Here’s City Traffic Engineer Gary Fox explaining a study of the lane reduction”s success and why his department strongly recommended keeping the 3 lane redesign permanently:

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.In the worst case, travel times increased roughly 20 seconds for westbound motorists traveling between Martin Luther King Jr. Parkway and 42nd Street during the afternoon rush hour, said Gary Fox, the city’s traffic engineer. There were essentially no changes overall and slight improvements in midday vehicle travel times, he added. [...]

The Ingersoll plan is part of a broader “complete streets” initiative that aims to make Des Moines streets more accessible to bicycles and pedestrians.

Now it looks like Des Moines is trying more lane reductions in other areas too, like Hubbell Avenue!

The Ingersoll re-striping created about fifty additional on-street parking spaces, which is good for businesses. Other cities and small towns like Cascade, Iowa City and the Johnson County Council of Governments have adopted complete streets policies. Dubuque has received a federal grant to help residents walk, bike, and bus to work.

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