NEW ALBANY, IN (WAVE) – The city of New Albany has received the green light to convert downtown one way streets to two way. Improving safety and preparing for an influx of traffic, thanks to the toll-free Sherman Minton Bridge are just two of the reasons city leaders are in support of the change.
Five downtown streets - Spring, Elm, Bank, Market and Pearl - will be converted to two-way. The city has studied the issue since 2007.
"Very, very excited," said Michelle Wells, owner of Mariposa Consignments. "Longtime coming."
It was just what Wells wanted to hear as she hopes two-way streets will encourage drivers to take time to look around.
"We see people going the wrong way on Pearl Street all the time," Wells said.
The New Albany Board of Public Works and Safety unanimously approved the resolution Tuesday after months of public hearings and street assessments.
"The three traffic studies that we've done and the science behind it is showing that it will slow down traffic and make this a place to be rather than a place to drive through," said Larry Summers, the New Albany City Engineer.
Police Chief Todd Bailey said this change should reduce response times and city first responders are in full support.
"The data shows very clearly that the conversion will make a much safer environment for pedestrians and cyclists," Bailey said.
Traffic models show up to 23,000 cars a day come down Spring Street towards the Sherman Minton Bridge. Summers said that number is expected to jump to 35,000 once tolls are in place on the Abraham Lincoln and John F. Kennedy bridges. Since you won't be able to go around slow drivers, Summers hopes toll dodgers will decide in the end to go the other way. Thanks to a road diet, it's an effort that is already in place on one part of Spring.
"That effectively was the mechanism that slowed traffic down coming into the city and limited the amount of cars that could come in," Summers said.
Board President Warren Nash admits he was skeptical at first, but after reviewing all the pros and cons, he believes this is what's best for New Albany.
"They'll be some tie-ups and there will be problems along the way, but we will have to work them out as we go," Nash said.
The project is expected to cost $2.4 million, but federal dollars will cover $2 million of it.
"It's a shame it couldn't be done this year," Nash said, "but jumping through all the hoops with federal dollars and all, it's worth the wait."
Construction is expected to start next summer and it should be all complete by the end of 2017.