Seek­ing so­lu­tions

City, DelDOT study­ing ways to im­prove Cleve­land Av­enue

Newark Post - - Front Page - By JOSH SHAN­NON jshan­non@ches­pub.com

Cleve­land Av­enue is a dan­ger­ous road, one of the worst in the state.

That fact is not de­bat­able, ac­cord­ing to state and city of­fi­cials, who cite sta­tis­tics show­ing there were 358 crashes on the 1.11-mile stretch of road­way be­tween 2011 and 2014.

“These crash num­bers are very scary,” said Matt Buck­ley, a con­sul­tant for the Delaware De­part­ment of Trans­porta­tion.

What is up for de­bate, how­ever, is the best way to make the road safer while also re­duc­ing con­ges­tion and mak­ing the road more ac­com­mo­dat­ing for pedes­tri­ans and bi­cy­clists.

Cleve­land Av­enue is sched­uled to be repaved in 2017 or 2018, so time is of the essence as of­fi­cials study the best course of ac­tion. If a plan is ap­proved in time, the changes can be in­cor­po­rated into the repaving project for lit­tle added cost, Buck­ley said.

At DelDOT’s urg­ing, the city has con­vened a com­mit­tee of city of­fi­cials, res­i­dents, Cleve­land Av­enue busi­ness own­ers and other stake­hold­ers to sug­gest and eval­u­ate ways to im­prove the road. On Tues­day, Buck­ley pre­sented to the group his anal­y­sis of sev­eral pos­si­ble so­lu­tions.

The com­mit­tee will meet in a few weeks to vote on each sug­ges­tion. Those ap­proved at the yet-un­sched­uled meet­ing will be for­warded to the city’s traf­fic com­mit­tee, which will make a rec­om­men­da­tion to city coun­cil. The coun­cil, which has fi­nal ap­proval, is ex­pected to take up the is­sue in late fall or early win­ter.

Here is a look at some of the ma­jor pro­pos­als be­ing con­sid­ered:

‘Road diet’ The most vis­i­ble of the pro­posed so­lu­tions would be what DelDOT refers to as a “road diet.”

Un­der the plan, the por­tion of Cleve­land Av­enue that is cur­rently two lanes in each di­rec­tion – be­tween Pa­per Mill Road and Capi­tol Trail – would be re­duced to one lane in each di­rec­tion with a shared cen­ter turn lane.

This would elim­i­nate the need for left-turn­ing mo­torists to stop in a travel lane, a fre­quent cause of rearend crashes, as well as frus­tra­tion.

“We’ve had some rather stag­ger­ing crash clus­ters in­volv­ing sit­ting­duck left turn­ers,” Buck­ley said, adding that other driv­ers abruptly chang­ing lanes to avoid stopped ve­hi­cles also cause con­cern.

He said traf­fic model­ing and a sim­i­lar project re­cently com­pleted in Clay­mont shows that re­duc­ing the num­ber of lanes would not lead to more con­ges­tion, though he ad­mit­ted that seems coun­ter­in­tu­itive.

Pro­vid­ing the cen­ter turn lane would mean through-traf­fic would be less in­ter­rupted and lead to a more com­fort­able driv­ing ex­pe­ri­ence.

“As you drive down Cleve­land Av­enue, you’re on edge,” Buck­ley said. “But when you cre­ate a turn pocket, that fear is min­i­mized.”

Re­duc­ing the num­ber of lanes would also al­low crews to in­stall bike lanes on both sides of the road.

Coun­cil­man Stu Markham, who rep­re­sents the area sur­round­ing Cleve­land Av­enue, said he sup­ports the road diet but said the city needs to make sure it en­gages res­i­dents and ex­plains why the re­duc­tion makes sense.

“Peo­ple will have a hard time un­der­stand­ing how you go from four lanes to two with­out af­fect­ing traf­fic,” said Markham, who added he gets many com­plaints about Cleve­land Av­enue from con­stituents. “It sounds like a win-win, but we need to prove it.”

Five-point in­ter­sec­tion Per­haps the most vex­ing part of Cleve­land Av­enue is the five-point in­ter­sec­tion where Cleve­land Av­enue, North Chapel Street, Pa­per Mill Road and Mar­garet Street meet. It is a fre­quent area of traf­fic de­lays, due in part to the fact that green light time has to be split sev­eral ways be­cause of the four roads that in­ter­sect.

DelDOT orig­i­nally stud­ied im­ple­ment­ing a traf­fic cir­cle there, but of­fi­cials found that the traf­fic vol­ume is too high, and a round­about would cause more prob­lems that it would solve, Buck­ley said.

In­stead, he is rec­om­mend­ing tak­ing Mar­garet Street out of the mix, mean­ing more green light time could be al­lot­ted to the other roads. Mo­torists would still be able to turn from Cleve­land Av­enue onto Mar­garet Street, but traf­fic would be pro­hib­ited from en­ter­ing the five-point in­ter­sec­tion from Mar­garet Street.

In­stead driv­ers com­ing from Mar­garet Street and the busi­nesses on Creek View Road would have to take ei­ther Christo­pher Lane, which con­nects to Cleve­land Av­enue near Domino’s Pizza, or Creek View Road, which con­nects to Pa­per Mill Road near Tim­o­thy’s Restau­rant.

If the change is made, Buck­ley said, DelDOT would eval­u­ate the mer­its of in­stalling a traf­fic light at Pa­per Mill Road and Creek View Road.

Pedes­trian safety On the por­tion of Cleve­land Av­enue be­tween Pa­per Mill Road and North Col­lege Av­enue, the block dom­i­nated by stu­dent rental homes, the most press­ing is­sue is pedes­trian safety. The road as a whole saw 10 pedes­trian-in­volved crashes in a four-year pe­riod.

Of­fi­cials are fo­cus­ing on im­prov­ing the safety of the pedes­trian cross­ing at Wil­bur Street. One sug­ges­tion is to build a con­crete me­dian so that pedes­tri­ans only have to cross one lane at a time, rather than wait­ing for the right time to cross both di­rec­tions of traf­fic.

Do­ing so would re­quire elim­i­nat­ing park­ing in sur­round­ing area.

The com­mit­tee is also con­sid­er­ing elim­i­nat­ing park­ing on Cleve­land Av­enue al­to­gether. Do­ing so would take away the haz­ard of pedes­tri­ans dart­ing out from be­tween parked cars to jay­walk across the road and would al­low for the cre­ation of a buffered bike lane.

How­ever, Ne­wark Pub­lic Works Di­rec­tor Tom Cole­man con­ceded that such a move would be “con­tentious.” Most of the rental prop­er­ties have park­ing spa­ces in drive­ways and back­yards, but with sev­eral peo­ple liv­ing in each house, park­ing is ex­tremely tight.

There is also the is­sue of two des­ig­nated hand­i­capped spa­ces, but Cole­man said his de­part­ment is reach­ing out to those res­i­dents to ex­am­ine al­ter­ative so­lu­tions.

Scram­ble phase At cer­tain times of the day, stu­dents head­ing to and from the Uni­ver­sity of Delaware’s Laird Cam­pus flood the in­ter­sec­tion of Cleve­land Av­enue and North Col­lege Av­enue.

This causes traf­fic con­ges­tion, in part be­cause turn­ing ve­hi­cles fre­quently must yield to pedes­tri­ans.

To fix this, Buck­ley sug­gests im­ple­ment­ing a “scram­ble phase” for pedes­tri­ans. That means dur­ing a par­tic­u­lar phase of the light cy­cle, all traf­fic would stop and pedes­tri­ans could cross the in­ter­sec­tion in all di­rec­tions – north-south, east-west and di­ag­o­nally. Then the light would pro­ceed to ve­hi­cle-only phases, elim­i­nat­ing ve­hi­cle-pedes­trian con­flict.

A sim­i­lar so­lu­tion was im­ple­mented at the in­ter­sec­tion of Delaware Av­enue and South Col­lege Av­enue last year.

Buck­ley called the scram­ble phase “a slam dunk.”

The Florida T The pro­posal that would have the big­gest im­pact on re­duc­ing con­ges­tion is also the most con­tro­ver­sial.

Of­fi­cials are propos­ing im­ple­ment­ing a “Florida T” at the in­ter­sec­tion of Cleve­land Av­enue, Capi­tol Trail and Wood­lawn Av­enue. Un­der the plan, traf­fic would no longer be al­lowed to turn left from Wood­lawn Av­enue.

This would mean that the right­most lane of north­bound Capi­tol Trail would never have to stop at a red light, re­duc­ing back­ups at the in­ter­sec­tion.

Buck­ley said this would re­duce de­lays by 100 sec­onds but ad­mit­ted that such a change would anger res­i­dents of Stafford and Windy Hills who use the Wood­lawn Av­enue exit to head to­ward down­town. Those res­i­dents in­stead would have to exit their neigh­bor­hood onto Capi­tol Trail from Anna Way or an­other side street.

The Florida T was pro­posed a few years ago but was dropped af­ter strong op­po­si­tion from res­i­dents.

The in­ter­sec­tion has al­ready been a point of con­tention in the last year, af­ter Wood­lawn Av­enue’s green time was re­duced to ac­com­mo­date other changes at the in­ter­sec­tion. DelDOT re­cently agreed to add a sec­ond left turn lane to help ac­com­mo­date more ve­hi­cles, but both left turn lanes would be elim­i­nated if the Florida T is im­ple­mented.

Off-road trail To fur­ther im­prove safety, city of­fi­cials are propos­ing an off-road trail that would al­low pedes­tri­ans and bi­cy­clists to by­pass the com­mer­cial por­tion of Cleve­land Av­enue be­tween Capi­tol Trail and Pa­per Mill Road.

On Tues­day, Cole­man pre­sented sev­eral route op­tions. All roughly travel be­hind the car deal­er­ships and con­nect to ei­ther Creek View Road or Old Pa­per Mill Road.

The trail is sep­a­rate from the DelDOT project on Cleve­land Av­enue and would be funded through the city’s cap­i­tal bud­get and grants, Cole­man said.

NE­WARK POST PHOTO BY JOSH SHAN­NON

Two pedes­tri­ans dart out in front of traf­fic on Cleve­land Av­enue on Wed­nes­day af­ter­noon. The city is con­sid­er­ing sev­eral mea­sures to im­prove the safety of the road.

NE­WARK POST PHOTO BY JOSH SHAN­NON

Traf­fic backs up at the five-point in­ter­sec­tion where Cleve­land Av­enue, North Chapel Street, Pa­per Mill Road and Mar­garet Street meet.

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