By Ken Stephens

The Hutchinson News

The Hutchinson City Council voted 4-0 Tuesday to accept a $6.2 million plan for Main Street that retains the current five-lane configuration and on-street parking and adds bulb-outs at certain intersections to make it easier for pedestrians to cross. The plan also adds sidewalks where there currently are none and replaces some deteriorated sidewalks.

The plan, to the relief of most of those who attended a series of public meetings, does not include a controversial roundabout at Main and 30th Avenue or closing the west end of Crescent Boulevard where it meets Main and 17th Avenue.

The project, which will run from Seventh Avenue to 30th Avenue, will be constructed in phases. The city engineering department will go to work immediately on designing Phase I, from 30th to 23rd, which is scheduled for construction in 2015. Once that design work is about 75 percent complete, the public will again be given the opportunity to comment. The City Council will have the final say because it still must approve the issuance of bonds to pay for the construction.

Jim Townsend, project manager for Wilson & Co., the consulting firm that developed the master plan after taking into consideration the results of a survey and several public meetings, told the council that a simple mill and overlay with a new 2-inch layer of asphalt from Seventh to 30th Avenues, new curbs and gutters and curb cuts for ADA ramps would have cost just under $5.3 million. To do all that, plus the bulb-outs, a new pedestrian crossing at the Hutchinson Public Library and replacing all the sidewalks along the length of the corridor would have cost just over $7 million.

The council chose a middle path recommended by Brian Clennan, the city's director of engineering, which included the bulb-outs and leaving in place sidewalks in reasonably good condition.

The master plan recommended bulb-outs at Seventh, Eighth, Ninth, 10th, 11th, 12th, 13th, 14th and 27th avenues. The bulb-outs extend the curb out into the street as far as the inside boundary of the parking lanes. That serves two purposes: one to shorten the distance pedestrians have to walk to cross the street and the other to keep traffic in the driving lanes and protect parked cars.

The plan also recommended traffic studies to determine whether traffic signals are warranted at Ninth, 11th, 13th and 27th. Council Member Nancy Soldner, a retired Hutchinson School District employee, immediately questioned the wisdom of removing the signal at Ninth and Main. She said she thinks a lot of students at Faris Elementary School, 301 E. 10th, use the signal to cross Main and that removing the signal was at odds with the city's pursuit of creating "safe routes to school."

Mayor Cindy Proett questioned removing the signal at 13th and Main, saying many older drivers choose to cross at 13th rather than deal with heavier traffic at 11th Avenue.

But in both cases, the council members agreed to see what the traffic studies suggest in a couple of years. Both those intersections would be dealt with in Phase III of the Main Street project, in 2017.

The council also voted 4-0 (member Jade Piros de Carvalho was absent) to accept the bicycle and pedestrian master plan also created by Wilson & Co.

The most significant recommendation of that plan is to remove the bicycle route designation from Main Street and instead apply it to Washington, one block to the west, which would allow bicycle riders to reach Main Street destinations, such as the library, along a safer street with less vehicle traffic and without the hazard of cars backing out of angle parking.

(c)2014 The Hutchinson News