TERRE HAUTE —
A move to convert an important downtown street to two-way traffic from its current one-way flow will be in front of the Terre Haute City Council tonight.
Councilman Todd Nation, D-4th, has proposed an ordinance to change Cherry Street between Third and Eighth streets into a two-way street.
The change would slow traffic on Cherry, allow easier access to the downtown from U.S. 41, and would help downtown businesses, Nation said. The change is also proposed in a 2008 downtown study by consulting firm Storrow Kinsella, he said.
Indiana State University is supportive of the change. Diann McKee, vice president for business affairs, finance and university treasurer, notes that the two-way traffic pattern is envisioned in ISU’s “master plan” developed in 2009. The university believes the move would ease access to the campus and also slow traffic on Cherry, making it safer for students walking to classes at the Scott College of Business, she said.
Still, several local city officials question the proposal.
Chuck Ennis, city engineer, said a recent professional traffic study commissioned by the city recommended keeping Cherry Street the way it is. The $75,000 study, by the Indianapolis-based Corradino Group, found making Cherry a two-way street would cause traffic delays, increase costs to the public and reduce air quality, Ennis said.
Ennis also believes accidents would likely increase on Cherry Street if it becomes two-way. That’s because many accidents take place when cars are making left-hand turns across oncoming traffic at intersections, he said. “Logic would dictate that if you increase left-hand turns [on Cherry], you’ll also increase accidents,” he said.
Ron Hinsenkamp, chief transportation planner for the Metropolitan Planning Organization, raised similar concerns and also noted that Cherry Street is used as an alternate route when Interstate 70 is closed.
The cost of converting Cherry Street to two-way would be more than $500,000, the Corradino Group study estimates.
“There are a myriad of things that have to be addressed,” said Brad Miller, transportation director for the City of Terre Haute. He cited the example of Greyhound buses — which require a wider turning radius when exiting the parking facility at Eighth and Cherry streets — as an example of potential traffic trouble.
Some motorists already mistakenly turn east onto Cherry Street, believing it to be two-way, said Beth Lutz, who works at ISU’s John T. Myers Technology Center, which sits along the roadway. However, Lutz isn’t sure the change would be a big improvement.
“I don’t think it would be safer,” she said as she prepared to cross Cherry Street after work Wednesday evening.
There are just a handful of businesses on Cherry Street and most business owners or managers contacted by the Tribune-Star declined to comment on the street proposal. However, Scott Moody, a manager at the Grand Traverse Pie Co. at Third and Cherry, said the change would benefit the restaurant.
“I think it would be a positive thing for us,” Moody said, noting that drivers traveling southbound Third Street/U.S. 41 must go several blocks out of their way to access the restaurant’s parking lot.
The City Council is expected to take up Nation’s proposal during its 6 p.m. meeting today in City Hall.
Reporter Arthur Foulkes can be reached at (812) 231-4232 or arthur.foulkes@