ASHLAND — North Main Street has seen more bicyclists and pedestrians and fewer traffic accidents since it went on a "road diet" in October, according to data presented to the City Council Tuesday.
There were three crashes, though, and all occurred at the Maple Street intersection where motorists turn to reach Asante Ashland Community Hospital, the data showed. Traffic is backing up more at that intersection, causing more cars to wait to turn.
North Main Street was restriped last fall to reduce car lanes and add bike lanes at a cost of $187,500, most of it covered by the Oregon Department of Transportation.
Ashland Public Works Director Mike Faught cautioned that a full year of data is needed to properly evaluate the impacts of the road diet. Most of the pre-road-diet information was collected in September 2012, he said.
The council will decide in November whether to keep the new configuration on North Main or repaint it back to its original design.
The road diet stretches from Ashland's northern outskirts to just before North Main enters downtown.
Before the road diet went into effect, that stretch experienced an average of 10 crashes per year, with many of those occurring where Wimer and Hersey streets meet North Main.
Those side streets were realigned just before the road diet went into effect. Separate cars on North Main Street that tried to turn left onto the side streets at the same time often blocked each other before the realignment.
That troublesome intersection has had no crashes since the realignment and road diet went into effect.
"People had sat in the through-lane trying to turn and now they have a turn lane," said Kimberly Parducci, owner of Southern Oregon Transportation Engineering, the firm hired to gather data on road diet impacts.
Car travel times are virtually unchanged through the road-diet corridor, dropping by 10 seconds for northbound traffic and one second for southbound traffic.
People are speeding slightly less often in the 25 mph section, with typical speeds dropping by 2 mph in both directions.
"Travel times are fairly consistent, which makes sense since travel speed has not changed much," Parducci said.
The number of cars using North Main Street has increased. Some surrounding neighborhood streets, including Oak and Maple, also are experiencing more traffic.
The city plans to work with Southern Oregon University to do a mail survey of 4,000 people about road- diet impacts at the end of September, Faught said.
The city also is seeking public comment about road- diet impacts through its Open City Hall online forum at www.ashland.or.us/Page.asp?NavID=13461.
To read more data on road diet impacts, visit www.ashland.or.us/Page.asp?NavID=15753.
Reach Ashland Daily Tidings reporter Vickie Aldous at 541-479-8199 or by email at firstname.lastname@example.org.