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March 6, 2021

Pedestrian safety among concerns in latest public input for Downtown Main Street plan

By Natalie Anderson
natalie.anderson@salisburypost.com

SALISBURY — The latest round of public input on a proposed two-phased Downtown Main Street plan includes concerns that too little emphasis is being placed on pedestrians and frustration with the city not yet fully delivering on the promises tied to a prior streetscape improvement project.

City staff members are currently gathering public input on a multi-phased streetscape plan for 10 blocks along Salisbury’s Main Street. One part of the plan involves re-striping. The other includes a vision for sidewalks and parking improvements.

Staff first presented the early renderings at a city council meeting on Dec. 1. Since then, three public input meetings have taken place, with presentations at the Greenway Committee and Historic Preservation Commission meetings last week.

The area in the plan — formulated from guidance from the North Carolina Department of Transportation, Downtown Salisbury Inc., city staff and local residents — spans from the Monroe Street intersection with South Main Street to the railroad tracks on North Main Street. The purpose of the plan is to make infrastructure improvements for parking, lighting, curbs and gutters and storm system sewers.

Another part of the project includes North Carolina DOT’s resurfacing of downtown streets, which is scheduled sometime between March and November, city staff told city council members last month.

Emily Vanek, the city’s long-range planner, said the overall feedback from the Historic Preservation Commission during its Jan. 14 meeting was positive as members of the commission agreed the plan would encourage people to spend more time downtown and enjoy the historical attributes of downtown.

Among the concerns, however, was whether loading zones were necessary. Vanek said commission members noted future businesses’ needs should be considered rather than focusing only on existing businesses.

Michael Young, a former Main Street manager who currently works as a consultant and developer, told the Post on Friday that still too much emphasis is being put on vehicles rather than pedestrians and shoppers. Instead, the plan should provide better walking conditions for pedestrians by making the current crosswalks safer and requiring turning vehicles to adhere to pedestrians.

“We don’t do these projects very often, so it’s important we do it right,” Young said.

However, downsizing from four lanes to three lanes is a great idea, he added, as it slows traffic down. And repaving the parking spaces with new angles eliminates the issue of larger vehicles extending into the downtown street.

A site analysis and traffic study led to the idea of dropping the four-lane profile with the steep angle for parking that’s currently in place, and moving to a three-lane model with a shallower parking angle.

The plan will include left turn lanes throughout the entire corridor, with designated areas for bus stops and unloading zones. As one travels farther north in the corridor, parking will transition from diagonal on both sides to a split of diagonal parking on one side and parallel parking on the other.

Parallel parking would be on both sides in the area between Monroe Street to Horah Street, with left turn lanes in both directions. Trees, lights and furnishings would exist within the first 5 feet from the curb, with 15 additional feet of sidewalk.

Then, when moving to the area between Bank and Fisher streets, parallel parking would be on one side and diagonal parking on the other, with 5 fewer feet from the curb in that area.

Diagonal parking would be included for both sides from Fisher Street to Innes Street, which allows for a higher volume of parking as there is more activity in this area. The area would include 15-feet sidewalk and loading zones.

Moving farther north, from Kerr Street to Cemetery Street, there would be no additional parking. However, the area allows for about 7 feet of room for bike lanes.

Young said he thinks the plan places too much emphasis on loading zones.

At the Dec. 1 city council meeting, Mayor Karen Alexander shared the same concern and suggested blocking off existing spots for loading may be a better idea.

Senior Landscape Architect Dan Lambert, of McAdams Landscape Architecture and Engineering firm, told Alexander at the meeting that those issues were addressed when formulating the plan. The implementation of loading zones are targeted for blocks that don’t have easy alleyway access. Additionally, companies like UPS and Amazon make deliveries all throughout the day, he added.

In an opinion column published by the Post on Dec. 31, Young said the city needs to deliver on its promise to beautify the first two blocks of East and West Innes Street in the recently completed streetscape improvement plan. Similar suggestions were made for that project, however, the crosswalks are still too narrow and dangerous for walkers, and no seating areas or bump-outs have been implemented, he said.

Commission members, Vanek said, were also frustrated that plans in the past were never fully carried out. They also called for more pedestrian-level lighting.

Additionally, commission members liked the idea of mid-block crossings due to the resulting reduced traffic speed.

More public input meetings are scheduled, with the next meeting taking place on Jan. 21 at the Neighborhood Leaders Alliance at 4 p.m. Locals can tune in virtually by visiting us02web.zoom.us/j/84157323179.

Another virtual opportunity for public input is scheduled for Jan. 27 at 6 p.m. Locals can visit us02web.zoom.us/j/85452162365.

Additionally, two outdoor, in-person public engagement meetings are scheduled for Jan. 22 from 8 a.m. to 10 a.m. at Koco Java on North Main Street and Jan. 22 from 11:30 a.m. to 1:30 p.m. near Sidewalk Deli on South Main Street. Those outdoor events are dependent upon weather conditions.

Contact reporter Natalie Anderson at 704-797-4246.

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