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Bloomington residents disagree on proposal to change one-way streets into two-ways

Bloomington biker Joe McManis said changing downtown Bloomington’s busy one-way streets into two-ways would make it safer for bikers and pedestrians.

“As a cyclist I am tired of fast, dangerous driving,” McManis said. “The change to two-way streets would be phenomenal because it will slow people down.”

McManis and other Bloomington residents attended Tuesday night’s first public comment meeting on the newly-proposed Transportation Plan, an amendment that will become part of the city’s Comprehensive Plan if passed.

Beth Rosenbarger, planning services manager for Bloomington, said the plan is intended to make Bloomington’s streets safer for all users. It’s a merger of two former documents, the Thoroughfare Plan, which was focused primarily on cars, and the Bicycle and Pedestrian Transportation and Greenways System Plan.

“Old plans failed to include other transportation users, not just drivers,” Rosenbarger said.

The new plan is looking to add 67 new street connections and more bicycle parking.

But the biggest proposed change involved potentially making the change to two-way traffic on Walnut and Third streets as well as Atwater and College avenues. 

More than a dozen Bloomington locals weighed in the issue, but by the end there was no consensus on whether the change would be good or bad. 

Two men said they, as pedestrians, think the change would be a mistake because it would make intersections busier. The two also said the city should focus on existing problems facing pedestrians rather than making big changes. 

McManis, who cycles, said the changes would protect bikers by forcing drivers to share the road more safely.

Plan Commission Chair Joe Hoffman questioned whether these changes were necessary.

“I’ve lived in Bloomington for well over 30 years and this would be one of the most abrupt, significant changes to happen,” Hoffman said.

Consultants from Toole Design Group, who helped design the plan, disagree with Hoffman, Rosenbarger said. The group said it had previously changed many one-way streets in South Bend to two-ways, and pedestrians and bikers in the community considered it a success story.

Rosenbarger said Atwater Avenue is a big issue for those who live off campus to get to campus. The road only runs one way and has poorly positioned stoplights, making it hard to cross, Rosenbarger said. 

“It’s a lot of pavement that isn’t being put to good use,” Rosenbarger said. 

The next Plan Commission meeting is scheduled for Nov. 8 in the Utilities Board Room in the City of Bloomington Utilities building.

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