One-way streets proposed
Hartselle unveils plan for Main Street
Hartselle city officials are hoping that converting sections of Sparkman, Sycamore and Hickory streets to one-way streets will help ease traffic jams in downtown Hartselle.
Engineers from Sain Associates along with Hartselle city officials and representatives from the Alabama Department of Transportation presented the plan during a meeting Tuesday night at the Hartselle High School lecture hall attended by about 30 people.
The plan recommended that Sparkman Street be converted to a one-way headed northbound between Hickory and Chestnut streets and make Sycamore and Hickory streets one ways headed south from Chestnut Street to Sparkman Street.
In addition to those major changes, the engineers also recommended that traffic lights on Sparkman Street at the intersections of Chestnut and Hickory streets be eliminated and converted to either two-way or all-way stops. The study determined that those intersections didn’t warrant signals due to traffic counts and it would also cost $400,000 to bring the current signals up to current standards.
The plan also calls for the two downtown traffic signals on Main Street and the railroad crossing signal to be linked together via radio frequencies and installing pedestrian crossing signals with countdown timers at each intersection.
Sain project engineer Brandon Denny said the proposal was based on the “natural” traffic movements observed during the study, which took about one week of field study last fall.
“Our solution was to create a one-way flow around the downtown area,” Denny said. “The big thing here is that you’re eliminating phases at these traffic signals. The phases are the time that you have to wait on somebody else to turn in front of you, and you’re also making it safer for pedestrians because there’s one less direction that you have to look to and you have have pedestrian signals.”
Denny said in his presentation that the traffic plan will reduce delays about 60 percent.
Mayor Don Hall said that while the proposal is radical, he believes it could help alleviate a number of traffic issues in downtown.
“I didn’t like it at first, but the more I think about it, it’s beginning to grow on me,” Hall said in an interview prior to Tuesday’s public involvement meeting. “The plan is outside the box, but I think it will work. I hope it will be able to make traffic flow smoothly through downtown.”
Most of the verbal comments from the audience of 30 community members were positive toward the plan.
Jeff Tanner said this is one of the best traffic solutions that he’s seen.
“It’s a very good plan, and I believe Hartselle drivers will be able to adjust within a week,” Tanner said.
Dwight Tankersley, a business owner and former Hartselle mayor, questioned why pedestrian signals weren’t already installed in downtown Hartselle.
“ALDOT approved a plan three years ago to fully fund the installation of ped heads,” Tankersley said. “Why haven’t they been installed yet?”
Department of Development Director Jeff Johnson said ALDOT believed the traffic situation in downtown Hartselle needed further study before the signals were included.
“They felt like the pedestrian signals alone would not solve the problem,” Johnson said. “They said it needed pre-emption signals and to connect the traffic signals before the ped heads were installed.”
Lee Y. Greene, a business owner in downtown, said pedestrians are scared to cross in the crosswalks at the Main Street intersections.
“We don’t use the crossings so we don’t get killed,” Greene said. “It’s confusing for us to know when they can safely cross the road at the intersections.”
Jeanette Groover, who owns a business on Railroad Street, said that something needs to be done to improve safety for pedestrians crossing Main Street at Railroad Street. Currently, there is a pedestrian crosswalk at the Railroad Street intersection, but Groover said no one uses it.
“The biggest thing that needs to happen is to slow drivers down and make them aware that there is a pedestrian crossing there,” Groover said. “I wish that there would be another pedestrian crossing (on the west side of the intersection).”
Denny said his team hasn’t considered that alternative, but they will go back and look at ways to install better markings and signage in that intersection.
Department of Development Director Jeff Johnson said the traffic plan was developed from traffic studies conducted by Sain Associates through counters and by observation at the city’s three peak times – 7 to 8 a.m., noon to 1 p.m. and 5 to 6 p.m.
“They tracked the movements of vehicles and in downtown, including how many people turned left or right or went straight at each of the intersections,” Johnson said. “They also looked at the side roads as well and I think they’ve done a thorough job studying our traffic issues.”
Johnson said the proposed one-way streets shouldn’t have a negative impact. In fact, He said most people traveling south on Sparkman Street already use Sycamore and Hickory streets to bypass the bottleneck caused by drivers turning left on Main Street at peak traffic times.
He also said it wouldn’t affect bus routes, which usually only travel north on Sparkman Street in the afternoons.
“If I have to go south on Sparkman Street in the afternoons, I go around using Hickory Street because you might sit through about two or three lights just because of the people trying to turn left,” Johnson said. “As far as I can tell, it shouldn’t affect the way the buses run.”
Johnson said the best part of the plan is that the traffic signals will be connected together with the railroad crossing.
“When the arms are down at the railroad crossing, the traffic lights will stop all traffic on Main Street but keep green lights on Sparkman Street and on Sycamore and Hickory Streets,” Johnson said. “This will keep traffic from backing up on the side streets, and it will go back to normal once the arms go back up.
“Right now, the traffic signals are not connected together. You can manually synchronize the lights, but they will get off after a period of time. This keeps them in synch at all times.”
Hall said they considered numerous alternatives, including eliminating all left turns in downtown, but he said this was the best proposal based on the limitations of the downtown area.
“We have very limited real estate to work with,” Hall said. “I think this is the best alternative on the table. The only complete solution is to complete the Hartselle bypass and connect it with Highway 31.”
Hall said he is encouraging all Hartselle residents to voice their opinions on the proposal, preferably in writing.
“Please give us any feedback that you can. It doesn’t matter if you like, don’t like it, have any suggestions for improvement or if you have any ideas of how we’d implement it,” Hall said. “You can send it directly to Sain Associates or you can send it to the city and we can direct it to the engineers.”
Any comments can be emailed to email@example.com, hand delivered to City Hall or mailed to 200 Sparkman St. NW, Hartselle, AL 35640.