Last month, Easley held a public meeting about the proposal, which would impact SC 135 from NE Main Street to Alfred Street, including a reduction of lanes — a road diet — and the creation of bike lanes in that stretch.
Several people voiced their concerns at that meeting.
“We had quite a bit of pushback on this project, a lot of folks unhappy with what they perceive it to be,” said Bicycle Committee Chairman Councilman Chris Mann.
Mann said the committe’s next meeting, in May, will be a public input meeting to let people voice their concerns about the plan and also give the city a chance to outline the advantages to the proposal.
“Maybe we’ve not done the best job of getting the word out and letting people know the value of doing this,” Mann said.
Many people feel the city has already made a final decision on the project — which is not the case, Mann said.
He said residents are concerned about the project making traffic worse in that area of town, not better.
Mann said people do understand the project’s aim of slowing down traffic along that stretch of roadway.
People are also concerned that the project will make it harder to access North A. Street from side streets, especially during peak traffic times.
Mann asked Eric Dillon, District Traffic Engineer with SC DOT, about the possibility of placing a traffic light at North A and North Main Street, a concern voiced by residents at the earlier meeting.
Dillon said that City Administrator Fox Simons had requested that a traffic study be done at that intersection and that DOT would await the results of that study.
That study will include data from peak traffic time, crash data and the impact that trains passing through have on that portion of town, he said.
“I won’t know the full analysis until we get the data back,” Dillon said.
Dillon said he personally felt the traffic in the area would not warrant a traffic light at the intersection.
“Road diets, I am a fan of them, when they work,” Dillon said, adding that many roads were built with four lanes without great justification for doing so.
Many drivers use an inside lane on a four lane road as a left turn lane — which often backs up traffic behind them.
Road diets are usually used on roadways with less than 15,000 average daily traffic, Dillon said.
That section of SC 135 falls below that figure, he said.
One advantage to creating bike lanes along that portion is increased visibility when exiting a side drive.
“A car is going to be able to stick their nose out in the road a little bit without getting the front end taken off,” Dillon said. “It’ll improve sight lines up and down that corridor.”
Patrick Rivers with Land Planning Associates said the roads at intersections would look pretty much the same as they do now — the proposed changes would come before those intersections.
Rivers said people believe that the reduction in lanes proposed would reduce that stretch of SC 135 from four lanes of traffic to two.
“You’re really going from four lanes to three,” he said — two lanes of traffic with a two-way left turn lane, or “twittle.”
“You’re not eliminating a turn lane,” Mann said. “You’re not going to be backed up.”
Phil Kearns said he didn’t realize that the plan included a center turn lane, and that many other residents may not realize that either.
“This may not create the bottleneck that people are thinking it will,” he said.
Councilman Dave Watson said the city needs to do a better job of talking about the advantages to the plan, including increased safety.
It’s very difficult to safely walk across the four lane section now, he said.
“That center lane should certainly make it a lot easier,” Watson said. “It should slow down traffic.”
There are a lot of children in that area of town, Watson said.
“The state highway department, our engineers … people have looked at it,” Watson said. “This is going to help the area.”
At the same time, residents need to realize that the project won’t be convenient for every house and every business, Watson said.
Another advantage to the project is creating a gateway to the community, he said.
“It’ll draw attention to people that we are a bicycle town, that they need to watch their speed, they need to look out,” Watson said.
Rivers said that Baptist Easley officials support the proposed changes to the roads surrounding it.
Should the city decide to go ahead with the project, it will need to obtain permits for timing issues with traffic signals, restriping and landscaping, Rivers said.
Christine de Vlaming said she felt that only a few residents spoke against the plan, and the committee could do a better job of discussing their concerns with them.
“The person contact shows that we care,” she said. “I think you could resolve some of it.”
“How do you get the word out?” Mann asked, adding some of the residents concerned with the project don’t read papers, have email, or want to attend future meetings. “We’ve just got to get the word out … on what the successes are.”
He suggested creating a press release about road diets and their advantages.
“We’ve got to educate people,” Mann said.
Rivers suggested the city place public hearing notices throughout the area, to further alert people about the meeting.
A time and date for the next bike committee meeting has not been set yet. Check back with The Easley Progress for updates on the meeting.