Residents weigh in on proposal to make dozens of changes to Bloomington streets

This artist's rendering suggests how an improved Kirkwood Ave. would mix pedesrians, vehiclular traffic and parking. (Provided)
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BLOOMINGTON, Ind. (WTHR) – If you know anything about the streets in Bloomington, you’re probably familiar with famed Kirkwood Avenue.

There’s commerce there, to be sure. And sometimes chaos.

“Yeah, I’ve had a few close calls,” said student Rod Baradaran, speaking of traffic along the busy thoroughfare.

“Just pulling out at night, sometimes when it’s hopping,” said Micah Myers, another IU student. “People are obviously drunk driving around here. I’ve definitely had my own heart jump a couple of times.”

Now the city is looking at ways all those pieces of Kirkwood might work better together, and the proposal goes well beyond just fixing sidewalks.

Planners laid it out for residents at a Thursday night meeting. The city’s draft transportation plan covers improved bike trails and lanes, walking paths, sidewalks and streets. All told, 67 new intersections and connections are proposed for better traffic flow.

And Kirkwood?

“It’s not a pedestrian mall,” said a traffic planner.

Under the proposal, Kirkwood could become a shared street, safe for walking, with some car and bus traffic. Bicycles, too. But vehicular traffic would be slowed by the design of the street, the concrete a different color and curbs either sloped or eliminated.

“I think that’s a great idea. The community of Bloomington is right here, you know,” said Baradaran.

What’s controversial is a plan to change some busy main roads, like College and Walnut, converting them from one-way traffic only back to two-way. Planners suggest it would actually help commercial development. But some residents and business owners were skeptical of that part of the plan.

“We have over-engineered for a non-existent problem,” said one resident.

A resident who said she is a frequent walker said two-way streets require looking in both directions. With multiple lanes involved, it can make crossing the street confusing.

“I think one-way streets are safer,” she said. “I have been hit by a car.”

The addition of turn lanes was also a point of contention at the hearing.

“It’s gonna be hard for businesses,” said one presenter.

“(I) just don’t want to lose the street parking that we’ve got,” said another.

Officials will sift through the public comment and put together a final report sometime next month. It would require approval at various levels of city government. The project could be rolled out in multiple parts over multiple years.

As for the price tag, that remains unclear.

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