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Ashland 'road diet' meets opposition

The Ashland City Council will decide whether to put North Main Street on a "road diet" by converting its four car lanes to three and making more room for bicyclists and pedestrians.

The council will meet at 7 tonight in the Ashland Civic Center Council Chambers, 1175 E. Main St., Ashland.

The road diet would affect North Main Street on Ashland's northwest outskirts between Helman Street and Jackson Road. Main Street would be re-striped to make one car lane in each direction with a center turn lane.

Council members must weigh dueling recommendations from city staff and the Ashland Transportation Commission. A group of neighbors worried about increased traffic on side streets has formed a Committee to Slow Down the Road Diet.

Staff members have recommended that the city realign Hersey and Wimer streets where they intersect with North Main before any road diet takes place. Hersey and Wimer don't line up with each other, creating dangerous conditions for drivers trying to turn left off North Main onto either side street.

Waiting for the completion of that intersection alignment would push the road diet back to September 2012. Left turns would continue to be allowed onto Wimer Street.

The Transportation Commission has recommended that the city fast-track the road diet for this September, pushing realignment of Hersey and Wimer to 2012. Left-hand turns onto Wimer Street would be banned.

The Committee to Slow Down the Road Diet wants to postpone the project to allow time for more community discussion of its pros and cons, though some neighbors, such as Vicki Capp, who lives on Manzanita Street, want it to be scrapped altogether.

"Manzanita Street will be one of the main streets impacted by the influx of cars," said Capp, who added she's in favor of realigning Hersey and Wimer, however.

Traffic on Manzanita would increase from 690 vehicle trips per day to 1,140, according to a traffic study of the impact of road-diet changes that included some left-hand-turn bans.

Capp said some streets in her neighborhood lack sidewalks, and she worries about kids and adults who are walking in the neighborhood to downtown or to the old Briscoe school, now home to Head Start and other programs.

A traffic study showed that banning various left-hand turns as part of the road diet would cause traffic to increase on some streets, drop on other streets and remain relatively unchanged on others.

To read a detailed report about how the proposed road-diet changes would affect car traffic on various streets and intersections, see www.mailtribune.com/ashlandroad-diet.

Vickie Aldous is an Ashland Daily Tidings reporter. She can be reached at vlaldous@yahoo.com or 541-479-8199.

Vicki Capp, innkeeper of the Iris Inn in Ashland, has concerns about the effects of the road diet that the Ashland Traffic Commission has proposed to Ashland City Council. Alisha Jucevic / Mail Tribune - Alisha Jucevic