Of­fi­cials: ‘Road diet’ re­duced con­ges­tion

DelDOT re­ports im­prove­ment on Cleve­land Av­enue

Newark Post - - FRONT PAGE - By JOSH SHAN­NON jshan­[email protected]­pub.com

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.

PHOTO COUR­TESY OF DELDOT

The “road diet” on Cleve­land Av­enue helped re­duce con­ges­tion, of­fi­cials said.

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