News From Terre Haute, Indiana

December 7, 2012

READERS’ FORUM: Dec. 7, 2012


---- — Visitor liked what he saw, but there’s work to do

I had the pleasure of walking around parts of downtown Terre Haute and the ISU campus recently with transportation guru Dan Burden. We were showing Dan around after his keynote address at the Our Green Valley Conference. Later that day, Dan led a session where he issued a Pedestrian Friendliness rating for Terre Haute based on what he had seen during our walk.

The good news is Terre Haute scored an eight on Dan’s 10-point scale — which Dan said he rarely sees. Looking at U.S. 41 near the Vigo County Courthouse, he remarked that getting pedestrians safely across the highway is a big but solvable problem. Dan found much to like from a pedestrian and bicyclist point of view in the places we checked out. We still have work to do though, both in the city core and at the edges.

A point that Dan made in his keynote presentation, which he echoed while looking at Cherry Street, was that if you plan streets for cars and traffic, you get cars and traffic. If you plan streets for people and places, you get people and places. In its current form, Cherry Street is configured to move cars and traffic swiftly along the edge of downtown and ISU — it’s definitely not planned for people and places.

Reverting Cherry Street to two-way traffic would slow it down, provide better connectivity for ISU and downtown businesses from U.S. 41, and allow for safer pedestrian crossings along its length. Two-way traffic is a first step toward making Cherry Street a well-rounded asset rather than a simple thoroughfare.

Over the past 15 years or so, we have been fortunate to have folks in local government who are planning for people and places. The Downtown Vision Plan, the Rural Health Innovation Collaborative plan, ISU’s master plan and Riverscape all have pedestrians and cyclists in mind as they chart the future of infrastructure serving Terre Haute’s historic core. Continuing to refine and expand our trail system is a good idea and a common feature of all of these ambitious plans.

Looking beyond our trails, Terre Haute needs to continue to invest in building and rebuilding sidewalks throughout the community. No new subdivision should be built without sidewalks, and parts of the city still without sidewalks should have them added. I suspect that a longer, more comprehensive tour of Terre Haute with Dan Burden would have yielded a lower Pedestrian Friendliness score for the community as a whole.

Our Green Valley Alliance for Sustainability did a great job putting on its second annual conference, and bringing in Dan Burden as the keynote speaker was an inspired choice.

Thanks to all involved for the thought-provoking sessions offered that day — I’m already looking forward to next year’s conference.

— Todd Nation

Terre Haute