Dayton officials say they are committed to making a dangerous and high-crash corridor on North Main Street safer, but there’s disagreement in the community about how to do that.
“There isn’t a pole in front of my house that has not been hit,” said Laura Jinkerson, 52, who lives on North Main Street.
North Main Street had 900 crashes between 2015 and 2017, including 356 that caused injuries and 7 that were fatal. The corridor is home to some of the more dangerous intersections in the region.
Some people support putting North Main on a road diet, reducing the number of lanes to slow down traffic and to potentially re-route vehicles to other nearby streets.
“I think there’s a good chance” (North Main) will be put on a road diet,”said Joe Weinel, Dayton’s senior engineer III. “But it’s a big expense and … the public has some say in what we’re going to do.”
Other local residents and property owners point to different ways to address safety.
The city of Dayton on Tuesday night had a public meeting to share some initial concepts and recommendations about how to make North Main Street less dangerous.
The city, along with the Ohio Department of Transportation and Miami Valley Regional Planning Commission, hired engineering and architecture firm Burgess & Niple to study a section of North Main Street from the Great Miami Boulevard to Shiloh Springs Road.
The consultant already collected feedback from some neighbors, transportation officials and city traffic, planning, police, fire and engineering staff. On Tuesday meeting, consultants accepted comments from community members to help put together final recommendations for the corridor.
Flashing beacons, raised crosswalks
Some ideas that were presented included pedestrian improvements like “piano-key” style cross walks, flashing pedestrian beacons and raised crosswalks.
Lowering the street lights and spacing them closer together would make it easier to see pedestrians, some said.
There were 36 crashes involving pedestrians in the corridor between 2015 and 2017.
The consultants also suggested softening a bend in the street in the Santa Clara business district that neighbors call “Dead Man’s Curve.” That might require obtaining and removing some buildings along the turn in the road, officials said.
One idea for making the Siebenthaler Avenue intersection safer is to limit and block off some driveways that are close to the intersection.
There were also suggestions to add protected left turn lanes. Left-turn crashes are the second most common type of crash in the corridor, after rear-end collisions.
Road diet ideas
But one of the most ambitious and likely expensive ideas is to put Main Street on a road diet. Burgess & Niple presented seven options for accomplishing this.
North Main Street has four lanes: Two headed north, two head south. Each lane is 10 feet wide.
One proposal is to create one very wide lane in each direction, with a center turn lane. Another option calls for one lane in each direction, a center turn lane and bike lanes on both sides of the street.
Or there could be one lane in each direction and parking on both sides of the street. There also could be one lane in each direction, a parking lane and a cycling track on one side of the street.
Another alternative is for two lanes, two bike lanes and a 4-foot buffer between motor and bike traffic.
The road also could be shrunk to only one lane in each direction and very wide sidewalks. There also could be one lane in each direction, a center turn lane and parking on the side of the street.
Though not cheap, a road diet should make North Main safer for pedestrians and motorists and wouldn’t likely dramatically alter travel times, said Weinel, the Dayton engineer.
The case for Riverside Drive
The traffic from North Main could move over to Riverside Drive, especially since there are many cross streets linking the two thoroughfares, he said.
Weinel said there’s other reasons why it might make sense to relocate traffic to Riverside Drive.
Main Street has 10-foot-wide lanes, while Riverside Drive has 12 foot lanes.
Main Street has a speed limit of 35 mph, while it’s 40 mph on Riverside Drive.
The North Main Street corridor has 16 intersections with traffic signals. There’s only five intersections with signals on Riverside Drive.
Average daily traffic counts are 18,400 on North Main Street and 14,400 on Riverside Drive, Weinel said.
The consultant estimated that putting North Main on a road diet might only increase motorists’ travel time by a matter of seconds for each intersection, he said.
However, if a road diet comes to pass, it would be necessary to figure out how to prevent Greater Dayton Regional Transit Authority buses from backing up traffic, Weinel said.
Road diet changed Brown Street
The city plans to pursue federal and state grants to pay for road improvements, and significant funding sources would be needed to move curbs and do a road diet, Weinel said.
Brown and Warren streets near the University of Dayton were put on a road diet and have become safer and pedestrian and bicyclist friendly, city officials say.
Brown and Warren went from four lanes to one in each direction, a center turn lane and bicycle lanes on either side of the road. The number of vehicles that travel along Warren and Brown hasn’t changed, which suggests the road diet hasn’t hurt the traffic flow, Weinel said.
Some community members balked at the idea of a road diet if it leads to more traffic on Riverside Drive.
They said Riverside Drive was already busy and increased traffic would be dangerous.
Gloria White, who lives in the Santa Clara area, said people will continue to break the law and drive way too fast and reckless no matter what improvements are made.
White said the best way to make North Main Street safer is to install automated traffic cameras, which the city uses to prevent and punish speeding and red light violations in various sections of the city.
“It’s time for the change to actually take place,” she said.