City hopes for more public input regarding downtown traffic flow

By John Underwood / john@gulfcoastmedia.com
Posted 7/11/18

ROBERTSDALE, Alabama — The Robertsdale City Council hopes to get more input on improving traffic flows in the downtown area along Alabama 59 after a light turnout for the first public hearing July …

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City hopes for more public input regarding downtown traffic flow

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ROBERTSDALE, Alabama — The Robertsdale City Council hopes to get more input on improving traffic flows in the downtown area along Alabama 59 after a light turnout for the first public hearing July 2 in the city’s council chambers.

Just one downtown business owner and a few residents spoke at the first public hearing. Two additional public hearings will be held following the city council’s regular meetings at 8 a.m. July 16 and 6 p.m. Aug. 6.

At the first public hearing held July 2, city engineer Greg Smith said he worked jointly with officials from the Alabama Department of Transportation, Skipper Real Estate and Thompson Engineering to present three options to help with traffic flow between Alabama 59 North Bound (Chicago Street) and Alabama 59 Southbound (Milwaukee Street).

Along with a proposal to leave the traffic flow as it is, officials said, two additional proposals were presented, one to make Pennsylvania Street on way west bound, while making Ohio Street one way east bound; the other to make both streets one way west bound.

“Everyone has either had a wreck, knows someone who had a wreck, seen a wreck or seen where a wreck was narrowly avoided in that area,” said Mayor Charles Murphy. “Our sole purpose in this is to make this area safer for drivers.”

The main traffic safety issue, officials said, is along Pennsylvania Street where traffic flow creates a bottleneck with parking for Ivey’s Restaurant and Sweat Tire. Ohio Street includes PNC Bank and another restaurant Taste of New Orleans by Chef Juan (formerly called Frenchie’s Cajun Café).

Officials said the options of making traffic flow one way on one or both of the streets was presented when the city began working with Thompson Engineering to eliminate the steep parking curves on the two streets, particularly on Pennsylvania in order to improve cross drainage and eliminate the large step downs from sidewalk to the street parking area.

“I think it’s a good way to improve traffic for the businesses in that area,” said resident Roger Booth.

Business owner Jewel Campbell also stated that she liked the idea of making traffic flow one way on Pennsylvania and Ohio streets, but preferred making Pennsylvania westbound and Ohio eastbound to having traffic flow westbound on both streets.

Only resident Ken Wilson spoke out against making any changes to the traffic flow.

“I think it’s stupid to want to change things just because some idiots don’t know how to drive,” he said. “It’s a waste of time and money and it’s just going to cause more confusion to change it.”

Murphy said he appreciated all input made from the public on the matter and hoped for more public input, particularly from local business owners, in the coming weeks.

The city is also considering the closing of Wisconsin and Michigan streets east of Alabama 59; and East Chicago Street (which runs parallel to Alabama 59 Northbound/Chicago Street) from Pennsylvania north to Michigan, once improvements to Honeybee Park are in place and the city moves its Utilities Department to property located north of U.S. 90.

The first phase of improvements to Honeybee Park have already begun and should be completed by Nov. 1 in time for Christmas festivities, which are held the first Saturday in December.

This year’s Honeybee Festival has also been moved from the first Saturday in October to the first Saturday in December while improvements are being made.

Honeybee Park improvements are scheduled for completion by the city’s Centennial Celebration, which is slated for 2021.