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Transportation Plan proposed amendments reduce car use, change street widths


A car drives April 22 through downtown Bloomington. The first 32 proposed amendments to Bloomington's Transportation Plan were released more than a week ago. Sarah Zygmuntowski

The first 32 proposed amendments to Bloomington's Transportation Plan were released more than a week ago and aim to fix many of the large problems city council members and the public had with the original plan’s proposed street widths and add specificity to its ways to improve public transit.

The Bloomington City Council was first introduced to the Transportation Plan in late January by the city’s Transportation and Planning Department. The plan is an amendment to the Comprehensive Plan, the city’s latest long-term strategy for land use and development.

Council members and residents were frustrated with the original plan because it did not consider many of the space restrictions of residential streets and the need for better bike and public transit infrastructure.

District 1 council member Chris Sturbaum said the plan was more of a top-down approach to implementing change because the consultants did not talk to neighborhood residents while formulating the plan. He said he thinks this is wrong.

“It’s really important to get buy-in from the people who live along these streets,” Sturbaum said.

Sturbaum authored one amendment that, if passed, would ensure existing residential streets will not be widened.

In the plan, every street in Bloomington is labeled with a new street type depending on the consultants’ vision for the street. Connector streets are 14 feet wider than residential streets. Many of the existing residential streets are labeled as connector streets in the plan, meaning they would have to be widened substantially, cutting into yards and, in some cases, houses.

The city’s Planning and Transportation Department co-authored an ordinance with Sturbaum that relabels 47 street types, 33 of which are residential streets currently labeled as these connector streets.

“It just wasn’t the right fit,” Sturbaum said. “It was as though some of these consultants hadn't been out on these streets.”

Sturbaum said he thought the Transportation and Planning Department’s action to remedy residents' concerns about the proposed street widths was responsible.

Many of District 5 council member Isabel Piedmont-Smith’s amendments focused on making the plan more in-line with the city’s goal to decrease fossil fuel usage.

“According to our Comprehensive Plan, we want to increase non-car ways of travel,” Piedmont-Smith said.

She wrote an amendment to include covered bike parking in the plan as well as an amendment to increase funding for Bloomington Transit. Piedmont-Smith said she thinks the city should use Tax Increment Finance money, which takes some tax money to fund large public projects, to expand the transit system’s capacity.

District 6 council member Steve Volan’s amendments included the improvement of the bus system with the possibility of creating a separate bus lane and better seating, lighting and shelter by bus stops.

Other amendments submitted by council members would change the original plan’s details for specific streets based on requests by residents.

Full amendments can be read here.

Citizens can continue submitting proposals to their council members until noon on April 29.

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