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Open question: What can be done with West Street?

Currently, West Street presents a 6-lane barrier between downtown and the White River State Park/IUPUI area.  Crossing it on foot feels like it should be more of a sprint than a walk, and I’ve never felt comfortable doing so.  The crosswalks do have generous crossing times, but mentally, the line-up of idling vehicles seems like it could bust out at any moment.  Despite (or, perhaps, because of) its width, it still backs up with traffic during peak times.  Is this street simply a necessary evil that follows along with our lack of transit?

West Street does have a few benefits going for it.  The fact that it is not an above-grade interstate makes it a more realistic option for multimodal transformation than the interstates do.   So, lets get creative.

28 Responses to “ “Open question: What can be done with West Street?”

  1. Curt says:

    I’ve done a little finger drawing in the sand and if the proposed Washington Street light rail were routed up West Street and ran on NY and Michigan through the IUPUI area, then you could conceivably take a lane away from each side and give over to rail. That is a long way off, but it would introduce transit options to the campus area which seems to be highly in need of such service.

  2. Chris Barnett says:

    It would be massive understatement to suggest that the intersections at Georgia, Washington, NY, and Michigan favor the automobile. 🙁

    I’d start with tinkering for better balance.

    The basic elements for safer/better ped crossings are in place at Washington on the north crosswalk: there is a large center “landing zone” that breaks the crossing. With some modifications (lane-narrowing and reconfiguration of median and left-turn boxes), I think each major crossing (Georgia, Wash, NY and Mich) could and should be made more comfortable.

    Remember, the below-grade crossing (from Military Park and the Medal of Honor Memorial to the State Office Complex) is a safe option. That’s the way I usually “cross” West St. in that part of town when not pressed for time; it’s a much more pleasant route.

  3. Curt, that option is intriguing. I don’t see a problem with keeping it in mind if we go the light rail on Washington route. It could travel down West White River Parkway to Washington. That side of the river could use a catalyst to spur redevelopment.

    Chris, I’ve crossed West Street via the Canal as well. That’s a nice option to have, and a good point to make. I like your tinkering in general.

  4. Andrew Troemner says:

    When I was in Brazil, the people I was staying with brought me to one of the bigger commercial districts in Sao Paulo, where there’s a massive twelve-lane thoroughfare running through the district. The rest of the district was on hills and the thoroughfare ran through the “valley” between these hills, so to speak, so there were bridges of considerable size connecting the district. Overall, there was heavy pedestrian traffic over the thoroughfare via the bridges while still allowing heavy traffic through.

    I like the idea of a pedestrian bridge crossing over West Street and I think it could be quite successful if it were in an area that didn’t already have good pedestrian access or one that already lies on paths that are going to be heavily traveled by pedestrians. The Cultural Trail, for example, crosses West Street not once but twice: once at St. Clair and West, and the other at Washington and West.

  5. Good point about the Cultural Trail. I have yet to see how it feels on foot, but unfortunately, West Street is still 6 lanes wide.

    I’ve seen some crazy wide streets myself, but I don’t think I’ve seen 12-lanes…that’s wild.

  6. Curt Ailes says:

    I ride across the West street Cultural Trail crossing and have still got stuck in the middle. It would be REAL nice to have a bridge over it, but that would be tough to pull off I think… as it is, the signals give enough time and on a bike, one can get across pretty swiftly

  7. ajk says:

    Pedestrian bridge over West Street at Vermont Street. Something would have to be done with the power lines.

  8. CorrND says:

    The Cultural Trail crossing at St. Clair is a huge boon to the neighborhood. Prior to construction, the pedestrian crossing at that intersection was timed so that it was literally impossible to cross unless you ran. Believe me, I’m a power walker type and I couldn’t cross in time. Now, there’s plenty of time for anyone to cross and there’s the median to stop over even if you’re not able to make it. Today I saw several bikers, many pedestrians, a pair of rollerbladers and even a skateboarder cross. AWESOME.

    Side comment related to the pedestrian bridge ideas: I contacted the Cultural Trail very early on to see what they thought of having the Trail cross West St (technically it’s Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. there) on a pedestrian bridge in line with Walnut St. They thought it was an interesting idea, but I think it would have required some right-of-way acquisition that simply wasn’t in their budget. I still think that would have been a fantastic way to get people quickly and safely over West St.

    • Chris Barnett says:

      A ped bridge built with Federal dollars (significant chunks of the Cultural Trail are funded with TIGER and TE grant dollars) would require ADA accessibility. And, frankly, most of us would be outraged at a non-accessible crossing even if it were legal. So that means either elevators or very long ramps.
      .
      Same issue came up in discussion regarding the Monon @ 38th Street, 15 years ago.

  9. This area presents a great challenge because there multiple factors contributing to the traffic: the connection to both interstates, IUPUI and stadiums and other tourist attractions. One has to consider a holistic approach in deciding how to make this a workable multi-modal route.

    I think the Cultural trail is a great start and will be helpful in furthering future multi-modal goals. I believe a more comprehensive transportation plan, like the one in the works currently, would be helpful.

    I think dedicated bus lanes would also make a difference. As well, reverting Michigan and New York to two way traffic would slow things down and make walking more comfortable for pedestrians. IUPUI should seriously consider providing more on campus housing or providing incentives for students to rent or purchase units within walking distance, which would reduce traffic.

    The ICVA should market parking better for the various attractions, including museums and sports facilities.

    I would like to see an alternate faster route, a limited access road, with connections at two intersections to move those who would like to get to either side faster.

    • Andrew Troemner says:

      Speaking of IUPUI…

      Back in 2008, the Chancellor contracted with a consulting group to develop a “Master Plan” for future building projects, as well as updating the built infrastructure of the campus itself. Some juicy highlights: the Master Plan includes dramatically increased on-campus housing (circa 10,000 possible residents), as well as more commercial and office space on campus for non-students, which would turn it into a more viable part of downtown than the currently-sparse layout. Another important recommendation was to turn Michigan and New York back into two-ways.

      Here’s a link to the whole presentation: http://www.iupui.edu/chancellor/messages/master_plan.html

  10. Chris Barnett says:

    Regarding streetcar…I’d run it right straight through WRSP on the old Washington St. and bridge, between the Zoo and Gardens, and back to Washington. That would put the museums and Zoo directly on the line, and on that alignment it would pass close enough to the south edge of IUPUI to be more or less convenient.

  11. mike says:

    If they can put pedistrian bridges that look nice and are secure and safe over massive highways – yes even in Indiana, why can’t we do that here? Power Lines wouldn’t be a problem as most bridges can act as a safe conduit for transmission lines when properly built and integrated. No need to waste money on adding lanes, repainting, shrinking, creating larger medians, etc. Putting Pedi-Bridges in, as well as a side for bikes over the bridge, could effectively speed up the flow of traffic on west street, and potentially eliminate the need for a light or two, or such long waits at the cross-walk.

    Will be interesting to see the impact, if any, the JW Crosswalk Bridge will have on pedi-traffic in that area.

  12. Curt says:

    I was in Harlingen, Texas yesterday and I saw a pedestrian bridge over a street much like West Street. Instead of long ramps in a linear fashion, it switched back on itself making it a little more compact. What they applied there may not look so good on West Street, but a similar design could be applied for a pedestrian bridge. I think it would be difficult to do in a visually attractive manner

    Check out this link to see what I am talking about.
    http://maps.google.com/maps?f=q&source=s_q&hl=en&geocode=&q=124+U.S.+77+Business,+Harlingen,+TX&sll=26.193029,-97.679972&sspn=0.000882,0.001711&gl=us&ie=UTF8&hq=&hnear=124+U.S.+77+Business,+Harlingen,+Cameron,+Texas+78550&ll=26.192759,-97.679181&spn=0.003509,0.006845&t=k&z=18

  13. Mike Mooney says:

    There’s a lot of open space on the eastern edge of the Eiteljorg at the intersection of Washington and West St for a pedistrian overpass. Also, it seems this is at least one of the locations for most ped traffic. Eiteljorg has expressed issues with attendance, with the blank wall facing West St, and needs something visually stimulating to attract attention and patrons. Perhaps there’s a solution for all 3 issues here.

  14. Curt Ailes says:

    I wonder if the Eiteljorg would permit usage of the land out front in exchange for some items that could help bring people in. I agree, that they seem a little isolated out there on the corner. They aren’t really, but it sure looks that way as far off the street as they are. Too bad there arent more things going on to take advantage of the green space out there.

  15. JC says:

    The idle green space in front of the Eiteljorg makes a nice vista that provides some breathing space from the densely populated Marriott complex. It also suggest the open plains represented in much of the art offered in the Eiteljorg. I’m not sure it merits much tinkering given these other roles it performs.

  16. b says:

    Too much talk about pedestrian bridges here. You provided the answer yourself in the original statement. Turn West St. into an above-ground interstate from I-65 on the north and I-70 in the south and that solves the problem of getting across West St. on foot at ground level.

  17. Curt says:

    Thanks for the reply, but I will be honest, I personally, as well as most in the area, probably wouldnt support another freeway through the regions core.

  18. Chris Corr says:

    Check out the CBD planning document from 1958:

    http://www.indy.gov/eGov/City/DMD/Planning/Docs/LandUse/Neighborhood/reg_center_np58.pdf

    It’s fascinating to look at their vision for the central city back then. They actually proposed an expressway roughly along West St. It was a bad idea then and it’s a bad idea now. Thankfully they didn’t build it.

  19. Andrew Troemner says:

    Mmm… to get the ball rolling in another direction…
    .
    West Street is possibly the most heavily-used thoroughfare in downtown around rush hour, considering it connects both north to I-65 and south to I-70. To promote more pedestrian connectivity between IUPUI and the rest of downtown, we’ve got to slow down the speed and reduce the traffic somewhat.
    .
    So, my question is: is congestion pricing along West Street viable?

  20. b says:

    Having an interstate-grade road for cars and trucks at raised level gives us extra benefits that might not be readily apparent. One is that the land taken by ground level West St. is plenty wide enough to put a second level freeway above it. No demolition of buildings or land condemnation is necessary. Notice how close an upper level road over Missouri St. would be to LOS. As funding for this road is easily secured, it costs very little extra to build a wide pedestrian walkway at the same level alongside Missouri St. for the crowds leaving LOS. Possibly combine it with a moving sidewalk that will move fans as far as Indiana Ave. At the SW corner of LOS make it an upper level pedestrian plaza all the way to the building and it makes access to the upper levels of the stadium that much easier. This pedestrian lane works for moving people out of the Convention Center and Victory Field too. Then when nothing is going on at LOS this can be an express bicycle lane from 10th St to McCarty St. During events at LOS the northbound lanes of the interstate can be closed to normal traffic and used for bus unloading and loading to the stadium event. As motor traffic exits off the southbound interstate on to Michigan St., Michigan street will be raised to the same level as the interstate all the way through IUPUI to White River. This solves the problem of pedestrian crossing of Michigan St. at ground level on the IUPUI campus.

  21. Andrew Troemner says:

    The problem as I see it is that raised highway traffic tends to still cut through a neighborhood much like a wall. The only use the land immediately underneath it gets used for is as a parking lot or, more probably, dirt infill to support the raised roadway. In addition, the underside of the raised roadway isn’t regarded as particularly safe, especially during the night. Example: look at I-65 as it cuts across the north side of downtown. It effectively creates a geographic barrier that inhibits development and significantly cuts down on the benefits of density in the region.
    .
    The fact of the matter is that raised roadways create geographic barriers that for some purposes are undesirable.

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