New Complete Streets Thoroughfare Plan Could Have Big Impact
The City of Columbus is looking to update its thoroughfare plan, the document that classifies every street in the city and provides guidelines for how big each should be and how much car traffic it should be able to accommodate. The new plan will take a decidedly different approach than the old one, which dates to 1993; it will follow the “Complete Streets” model, attempting to balance the needs of drivers with those of cyclists, pedestrians, and transit users.
The city’s Department of Public Service has been working with a consultant for past six months to outline the scope of the project, and will will send out a request-for-proposals early this year in the hopes of having a different consultant on board by summer to start the two-year planning process.
“The new plan will recognize the need to serve other users, and to put streets in the context of the neighborhoods, preserving their character,” said Patti Austin, city planning and operations administrator. She noted that the current plan is very car-centric and has “unrealistically huge streets planned for areas,” citing as an example the large intersection recommended for East North Broadway in Clintonville. That recommendation – not likely to ever be implemented and solely based on projected car traffic – was noticed by neighbors wary of a proposed turn lane on the street.
Austin said that the new plan will also include recommendations for green infrastructure and new bike accommodations, which will be developed in conjunction with a planned update to the city’s Bicentennial Bikeways Plan. Public meetings, online surveys and a PR campaign are planned to help get the word out and solicit input.
Maryellen O’Shaughnessy, who worked to pass a resolution in support of Complete Streets when she was on City Council, thinks the new thoroughfare plan could “set the tone for many years to come for the city.”
“This is our opportunity to get some policies in here – a resolution is one thing, getting actual policies is another,” she said, adding that it will help Columbus “get away from the 1950’s mentality that just involved cars instead of all transit, pedestrians and others… to reclassify streets so it makes better sense.”
O’Shaughnessy noted that the recent controversy over raising speed limits on certain streets in the Short North was precipitated by the streets’ classification in the thoroughfare plan.
“This gets to the core of the matter,” she said. “If we’re going to have neighborhoods that truly are transit and bike and pedestrian friendly, we need to classify the streets with those things in mind.”
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Photo by Walker Evans.