Sunday, August 29, 2010

16th Street improvements

Below is a link to an article in the current issue of the Urban Times about an upcoming City project on 16th Street. It appears that the project will mainly consist of resurfacing the street, with some sidewalk and curb repair/replacement. The exciting part is the ability of a group of concerned citizens being successful in convincing the City to make some substantive changes to their plans to actually improve the street from a pedestrian's standpoint, most notably by providing curb extensions at the intersection of 16th & Delaware to reduce the crosswalk distance from five lanes to three lanes. Hopefully, this will also slow the speed of traffic and further increase safety for both drivers and pedestrians at this off-set intersection.

Ironic was the mention that the citizens' group was unsuccessful in convincing the city to reconstruct the sidewalk on the south side of 16th, west of Meridian (in front of Walgreen's parking lot), because the sidewalk there was too recently constructed to merit reconstruction. The citizens' group asked that the sidewalk be rebuilt away from the curb with a tree lawn between the street and sidewalk. One might ask why the City didn't build the sidewalk that way when it was previously reconstructed. Did we just realize that sidewalks built right next to a lane of moving cars are not inviting to pedestrians? The sidewalk probably could've been rebuilt as part of the Walgreen's redevelopment at this corner in 2007. Perhaps the City decided that it was more important to have some landscaping between the sidewalk and Walgreen's parking lot, which (according to the City's website: ) appears to be built within a foot or so of the 16th Street right-of-way line, rather than providing a ten-foot strip of landscaping as typically required by the zoning ordinance.

Across Meridian Street, the construction of the new CVS did include reconstruction of the 16th Street sidewalk at the right-of-way line to give pedestrians a slight buffer from traffic. Unfortunately, the sidewalk along Meridian Street still hugs the curb, requiring pedestrians to walk within a misstep of traffic. While it doesn't appear that there is additional unused right-of-way on Meridian Street, there is a strip of landscaping between the CVS building and the sidewalk. Why not reverse the sidewalk and landscaping to provide some buffer between pedestrians and traffic?

Wouldn't it be refreshing to have the City actually propose improvements that would improve the pedestrian environment instead of it only happening as a result of active and informed citizens catching them in time to win some changes to the plans? Take a look at the newly rebuilt sidewalk on Dr. MLK Jr. St, between 16th and 21st Streets. Right next to moving traffic and worse yet, there are utility poles right in the middle of the sidewalk, such that there isn't even space to get a wheelchair around the poles without going off the sidewalk. Does not the Americans with Disabilities Act apply to such projects?


cdc guy said...

The area CDC was successful in getting the developers of CVS to rip up the curb-adjacent sidewalk on 16th to create a tree lawn (and to increase the existing trees' chances for long-term survival).

You're right about Meridian: the street and sidewalk take up the entire 70-foot right of way from 12th to Fall Creek. The problem is that DPW says they don't want to add little bits of ROW (one development at a time), and they don't want their sidewalks on private property.

So there's a problem with trying to gradually move the sidewalks back from the street and put in tree lawns by the curb.

Idyllic Indy said...

I wonder why the City's Thoroughfare Plan doesn't propose a slightly wider right-of-way along Meridian Street. One would expect that the planners who develop the T'fare Plan understand that the Meridian Street corridor needs additional space for pedestrians, landscaping, and other amenities.

On a related note, I believe that in the City planners' excitement to see buildings up near the street, without parking in front of the building, they fail to consider that it might be appropriate to require a minimal front setback, rather than a zero-foot setback. Where sidewalks are very wide, a zero-foot setback might have few if any negative repercussions, but where there is limited right-of-way and narrow sidewalks, requiring some small front setback could provide for a widened sidewalk, landscaping, outdoor seating, portable signs, benches, and such things that so often seem to inappropriately overcrowd what little sidewalk exists.

As I've mentioned, CVS did provide a short setback on the Meridian Street side. I just think that space should have been used for a widened sidewalk, with trees protected by grates (correct term?) out closer to the curb. In tandem with a dead facade wall on the Meridian Street frontage, I find walking past the bus shelter right next to fast-moving cars to be extremely uninviting.

cdc guy said...

That bus shelter at CVS should have been pushed back closer to the building. I agree with you that it's very uncomfortable to walk past, especially if people are in the shelter and a bus is stopping or starting up...that happened to me just the other day.

The idea of widening the ROW on Meridian is a good one, but it wouldn't fit past the diagonally opposite buildings at 21st. The building on the SE corner is right on the line. The St. James (National Register property on the NW corner) is just about 4 feet back of a retaining wall. The small office building north of St. James is right on the sidewalk. So there's no extra space available at the narrowest point on the corridor...but there is a few feet available everywhere else.

My solution is to walk on Penn north of 16th. It's less busy, tree-lined, and much more comfortable.