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Bloomington residents voice concerns over transportation plan



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Bloomington residents review the draft of the city's new transportation plan that was presented for public comment Thursday night at City Hall. Dominick Jean Buy Photos

More than 100 people came out to Bloomington City Hall on Thursday night, several of them with vocal concerns about the nature of the latest draft of the Bloomington Transportation Plan.

Suggestions and recommendations from Toole Design Group, the consulting firm hired by Bloomington to draft the $125,000 plan, included: redesigning Kirkwood Avenue, extending bicycle trails and east-west routes and the restoration of two-way traffic on Atwater Avenue and Third Street. 

The plan calls for 67 new street and road connections throughout the city and looks to create what's called a multi-modal transportation system, which prioritizes multiple types of travel from cars to cyclists and pedestrians.

Many residents were excited by the recommendation the city add separate bike lanes with vertical barriers between traffic and cyclists.

Restoration of two-way traffic was perhaps the most controversial recommendation at the meeting, with numerous Bloomington residents making comments citing their concerns.

One vocal complaint came from resident Margaret Clements, who said she didn't believe all these changes were necessary and the recommendations did not take into account an aging Bloomington population.


Margaret Clements, a Bloomington resident, argued against the draft of the city's new transportation plan on Thursday and its focus on cyclists and younger residents over drivers and the elderly. A public meeting about the plan took place in City Hall. Dominick Jean Buy Photos


“I think we are over-engineering for a nonexistent problem,” said Clements.

Clements also said the plan failed to take into account the number of drivers in Bloomington and was trying to force people to walk or ride a bicycle rather than drive.

Sagar Onta, the engineering director for Toole Design Group, explained, both before the meeting and during, that the plan is conceptual right now and is not meant to alarm residents who might be concerned about changes. 

Onta said he and Toole Design Group are presenting this plan to the city and the plan reflects desired or ideal changes to Bloomington, but not all those changes will be realized but, by planning for them now, Bloomington can be prepared if and when things change.

"The reason we took this long-term view is cities change, development happens," Onta said.



Kirkwood changes

One recommendation is a remodel of Kirkwood Avenue, extending from Indiana Avenue to Walnut Street. Kirkwood Avenue would become what's called a shared street, Onta said. 

The new curbless street design will prioritize nonmotorized traffic like pedestrians and bicyclists, and help slow speeds in the area. Changing Kirkwood to a shared street would allow it to slow down traffic and function like a festival street when needed.

"The idea is to make that part of downtown the center of town," Onta said. 

The transportation plan notes street parking is optional on shared streets, but Onta was clear there would be no loss of parking downtown and on Kirkwood Avenue, although businesses might be able to choose between street parking and an outside, patio area.

Two-way traffic

Currently, Walnut and Third streets, as well as College and Atwater avenues, are all one-way streets, but the final draft calls for the restoration of two-way traffic on these streets to help facilitate the process of getting residents downtown, slowing traffic and making downtown the true center of town both economically and culturally. This change will help facilitate another east-west connection in the city, something Bloomington currently lacks.

While those are the streets Toole Design Group recommended, Bloomington resident Jenny Southern argued changing traffic along those roads isn't feasible and the city should look at changes to possibly Henderson Street and Indiana Avenue, where confusion over one-way access has created a problem and two-way traffic could help.

'I see a lot of wrong ways, confusion and traffic problems," Southern said about Indiana Avenue. 

B-line expansion

Also included in the final draft of the transportation plan is an expansion of the B-Line Trail. The plan suggests expanding the trail's level of safety and comfort onto Seventh Street would benefit the IU and local residential communities.

The B-line expansion is one of the Phase 1 projects, Onta singled out during the meeting.

Even though the city could be facing major changes in street design, Onta said he wanted to reassure residents no changes were happening right away and they should not be alarmed. 


Sagar Onta, right, is the engineering director for Toole Design Group. He fielded questions Thursday about the nature of the city's new transportation plan he designed, which called for changes to Kirkwood Avenue and other major streets. Dominick Jean Buy Photos


Download the plan

The entire Bloomington Transportation Plan is available for download on the city's website, and residents who were unable to make it to the meeting can still comment about the plan online or stream what happened at the meeting through CATS TV.

The plan, in theory, should be finalized by fall 2018.

Beth Rosenbarger, Bloomington's bicycle and pedestrian coordinator, said the goal is to have more final documents by August.

The plan will then be given to the Bloomington Plan Commission and the Bloomington City Council for review and adoption. 

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