DBA considers future traffic-calming measures

Published 1:00 am Friday, April 3, 2015

NW0403 DBA

Traffic in a shopping district is usually considered a good thing, but not when that traffic is considered to be putting others at risk.

Members of the Downtown Business Association discussed ways to slow and calm traffic through the historic shopping area during their monthly meeting Thursday morning.

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Several months ago the city placed mobile “stop for pedestrian” signs in various crosswalks in downtown to slow traffic down. However, those were moved during the winter to allow for snow removal, DBA President Cathy Shoun said.

“The speed in downtown is picking up again,” Shoun said. “I’ve noticed the cars will go rushing by on their way through.”

The stop signs for the crosswalks will be returned to E. Elk Avenue, offering a short-term solution, but Elizabethton Planning and Development Director Jon Hartman told the DBA some solutions for downtown traffic concerns are in the city’s long-term plan.

Possible long-term solutions are raised crosswalks in the middle of the blocks, “bump out” planters at intersections and reducing E. Elk Avenue from three lanes of traffic to two, Hartman said.

While all these things are being considered, City Manager Jerome Kitchens informed the DBA that any major changes would not be happening in the near future. Raised crosswalks could be a solution, but are expensive, Kitchens said. It would cost the city $50,000 to put in three raised crosswalks on E. Elk Avenue and one on E Street.

As for the lane change of E. Elk Avenue, there is not a uniform public consensus yet on the changes, Kitchens said.

“We have heard from people who are in favor of the change, but others think the third lane is necessary because of the trucks that unload in downtown,” Kitchens said.

However, the two-lane system works for other parts of downtown, Hartman said.

“E Street has two lanes and it does just fine,” Hartman said. “When a truck has to unload, it stops in the lane in front of the business and the traffic shifts over a lane.”

Currently, the downtown is in the midst of a canopy renovation project to repair drainage issues for the canopies over the sidewalks. Any changes to the traffic flow will likely not be considered until this project is completed, Kitchens told the DBA.

“These are all sizeable budget requests,” he said. “Anything like this would have to come before city council. These projects come with a big cost, and we are already working on the canopies. We do have the rest of the city to consider as well. If you want to see these things happen, talk to your council members.”

The DBA also resumed discussion on landscaping and other beautification projects in downtown. New trees to be installed in the empty planters should be in place soon, DBA Secretary Patti Whitson said.

“The snow and weather in March put us behind,” Whitson said. “Everything is ready to go and the trees should be put in the planters.”

Inmate work crews will be in downtown today replacing the decorative banners for ones with spring scenes, John Huber said. The crews will also be replacing damaged or broken brackets while changing the banners.