Officials: ‘Road diet’ reduced congestion
DelDOT reports improvement on Cleveland Avenue
Recent changes to Cleveland Avenue have reduced congestion, but it’s too soon to tell if the project achieved its broader goal of reducing crashes on the road, which was considered one of the most dangerous in the state, officials said.
“We like to have a year of data or multiple years of data,” Matt Buckley, a consultant for the Delaware Department of Transportation, explained after giving a project update to the Newark Traffic Committee last month.
Most of the project, which came out of recommendations from a committee of residents, business owners and officials, was completed over the summer.
It included reducing the number of lanes from four to two with a center turn lane, eliminating on-street parking and making Margaret Street one-way.
A DelDOT crew is now installing a new crosswalk and refuge island in front of the Alder Creek community, and that work is expected to be done by February, Buckley said. A refuge island is a concrete median in the middle of the road that allows a pedestrian to cross one lane and safely wait until the other lane is clear to continue across the road.
The biggest improvement came at the five-point intersection where Cleveland Avenue, North Chapel Street, Paper Mill Road and Margaret Street meet. That intersection was a frequent area of traffic delays, due in part to the fact that green light time had to be split several ways.
By making Margaret Street one way – traffic can no longer enter the intersection from Margaret Street – more green light time could be allotted to the other roads. At peak times, an additional 300 cars are getting through the intersection each hour, Buckley said.
Reducing the number of lanes – what traffic engineers refer to as a “road diet” – had a similar effect, accommodating an additional 150 cars an hour.
“We’re really proud of the results,” Buckley said.
He acknowledged that many motorists have a hard time believing that reducing the number of lanes can reduce congestion.
“The analogy I like to use is, why does a kindergarten teacher make her class walk single file instead of side by side? It’s more organized and it’s more efficient,” he said. “Our data shows we’ve created a better thoroughfare.”
Tim Filasky, acting public works director for the city, said there were initially problems with backups due to the road diet, but most of the issues went away as DelDOT tweaked signal timing.
“We did get few choice words on why we went from four lanes to two lanes and we certainly understand that change is difficult,” Filasky said. “But [for] the folks that stuck with it and actually provided some very good feedback on how to make things better…. we have made a lot of the tweaks.”
The next step is adding a refuge island at Wilbur Street, which is slated for this summer, and adding bike lanes between North College Avenue and Paper Mill Road, which won’t be done until the road is repaved in a couple of years.
Meanwhile, Buckley said he is looking at alternatives to the only recommendation that was not implemented, the controversial Florida T at the intersection of Capitol Trail, Cleveland Avenue and Woodlawn Avenue.
Under the plan, DelDOT would have reconfigured the intersection to limit access out of Stafford and the surrounding neighborhoods. Only right turns in and out would have been allowed, meaning residents could not have used Woodlawn Avenue to turn left onto Capitol Trail or head straight to Cleveland Avenue.
The result would have been dramatically improved conditions for other segments of the intersection, according to DelDOT engineers. Under a Florida T configuration, the right-most lane of Capitol Trail heading out of the city would have a constant green light.
However, the Florida T was defeated due to strong opposition from the neighbors.
Buckley’s newest proposal is similar to what was done at Margaret Street but doesn’t go as far as the Florida T would have.
He proposes limiting the change to only the evening rush hour. From 3:30 p.m. to 7 p.m., Woodlawn Avenue would not get a green light, meaning motorists leaving Stafford could not turn left or go straight.
Access in to the neighborhood would not be affected, and the intersection would function normally during the rest of the day.
Buckley said he hopes to test the plan for a week to demonstrate the effect it would have on surrounding roads. However, he noted, the proposal is still in the preliminary stages.
“Our speculation is it would free up the bottleneck at Cleveland Avenue, and you would see a benefit back to Wyoming Road and back to Possum Park Road,” he said.
The “road diet” on Cleveland Avenue helped reduce congestion, officials said.