VALPARAISO | With the closing of one block of Lafayette Street for much of the summer and then permanently once Central Park Plaza expands, the city is looking for new options for turning south.
The city's Traffic and Safety Committee again talked about the left turn opportunities for westbound traffic on Lincolnway last week. Drivers not turning left at Michigan Street have to travel four blocks to Napoleon Street for the next chance to head south. Eastbound traffic can turn at Napoleon and then must wait until Franklin Street, a three-block stretch.
"We thought about just removing the turn restrictions," Engineering Director Tim Burkman told the committee. "People are doing it now, and it really backs up traffic. Lincolnway is the main thoroughfare, and, if we start allowing left turns, it will start backing up traffic. It would solve one problem but create a bigger problem."
Burkman said he would rather keep traffic moving on Lincolnway and added it's not unusual to have to travel several blocks before being allowed to turn. One of the options would be to make Washington Street two-way south of Lincolnway to provide an additional southbound route.
He said some intersections have enough room for traffic to squeeze around vehicles making left turns, but the pedestrian bumpouts installed at Washington are larger than at the other downtown crossings and wouldn't allow that.
"It's inconvenient (not to be able to turn left), but it's more inconvenient if you are trying to get through downtown," he said.
Assistant Fire Chief Dan Lamb said he felt Washington should be a two-way street because it is a main route to U.S. 30 and would make it easier for people to get to it instead of having to make several turns to get to the two-way section south of Indiana Avenue.
Patrol Capt. Michael DeHaven said Washington and Lincolnway is one of the busiest pedestrian crossings in the city because of all the traffic in and out of the courthouse. That is one of the reasons the bumpouts were designed the way they are, he said.
Public Works Director Matt Evans said the city could look at reconfiguring the intersection when it reconstructs the block of Washington north of Lincolnway. That might also be the time to consider making the street two-way all the way. That project is awaiting funding.
The switch to two-way traffic would be expensive because of the need to add additional traffic signals at both Lincolnway and at Indiana. Changing the angle parking on Washington wouldn't be hard, but it could have an impact on vehicles going in or out of the Fifth Third Bank lot, Burkman said. Also, valuable parking spaces at the corners would be lost.
The committee decided to wait to see what the impact of the park expansion has on downtown traffic before considering changes.