The City of Springfield is considering plans for reconstructing Derr Road, a project that’s become controversial as city leaders seek an eco friendly solution.
Derr Road is a busy street on the north side of Springfield that between 10,000 to 15,000 motorists use a day. The city is looking for ways to obtain state money to help pay for the project. And to do so, the city must find ways to reduce congestion and promote cleaner travel options — like bicycles.
The city has presented four options including reducing the street to one lane both ways to implement bike paths on each side. Another option calls for workers to widen the road, add a turn lane in the middle of the existing four-lanes and create a multipurpose path where a sidewalk is currently.
The city and project team is collecting community input until Dec. 31. Residents can do so by submitting paperwork found on the city’s website.
“The project team will review the public’s comments and re-evaluate the proposed alternatives as well as any additional alternatives developed based on public input,” a city information sheet says. “A preferred alternative will be identified and advanced to preliminary design. Another public meeting will be held to present the city’s preferred alternative, provide details regarding the preferred alternative’s impacts, including the construction schedule and maintenance of traffic and seek additional public input.”
The cost to repave Derr Road would eat up most of the city’s $2 million street budget, said Springfield Deputy City Manager Bryan Heck, who is set to become city manager next year. That’s why it’s important to try to get as much state dollars as possible.
“This is a very expensive project,” Heck said. “Derr Road needs reconstructing. Even if we were to build Derr Road exactly as it is today and repave, it’s not as simple as coming in and shaving the pavement. It needs to be reconstructed. That cost alone is $1.8 million.”
And the longer it takes the city to start the project, the cost will rise, Heck said.
For comparison, typically one city block costs about $60,000 to pave.
The city also wants to complete sidewalk construction on the road to close gaps where sidewalks don’t connect. Doing so would make it easier for people who use wheelchairs or strollers, Frank Aransky with American Structurepoint said.
American Strucutrepoint is an engineering firm helping the city with the project. All options presented include filling in the sidewalk gaps.
The first alternative appears to be the most controversial.
Derr Road is a four-lane street that has two lanes for both south and northbound traffic. It does not have any bike paths or lanes.
The first option would reduce vehicle traffic to one lane going both north and south and add a bicycle lane both ways with a buffer between the two lanes. It would also fill in the sidewalk gaps.
Residents who attended a recent forum voiced their concern. They argued Derr Road is too busy to reduce traffic to one lane each way.
“There is too much business on Derr Road and we need to be able to increase business here,” said Donovan Knight, part owner of Lagonda Real Estate.
His business will be impacted by the changes on Derr, he said, and safety is a top priority.
“Derr Road is very busy,” he said. “It’s very busy and it leads you in a rush to get in and out of the driveway. When you’re watching for cars and the road is congested as Derr Road is you are trying to get into traffic and you throw a small bicycle into the path of traffic you are asking for something to go wrong.”
Bicyclists at the forum said they want to ensure their safety and a designated bike lane would do that.
Alternative two and three
The second alternative would create a bike lane next to existing motorist lanes but would not create a turn lane nor would there be a buffer space between the cars and the bicycles.
The positives of this plan, according to a city information sheet, includes narrower lanes that would reduce traffic speeds and would utilize the roadway width between existing curbs.
The third alternative would keep the current motorist lanes and create a “multi-purpose” path off the road where a sidewalk would usually be.
It would not create a turn lane and bicyclists would use the multipurpose path. Pedestrians would also use the path.
The fourth alternative appeared to be the most well-received at the public meeting, however, it will also likely be the most expensive.
The option calls for the widening of curbs and pavements south of Providence Avenue which would result in more costs. However, it would create a new turn lane, maintain the four lanes motorist currently use and would build a multipurpose path off the road for pedestrians and bicyclists.
“Alternative four would be the best right now,” Knight said. “It leaves us with no patchwork. It leads us into the future. The road would last for many years.”
Knight said while it might be the most expensive, he believes it will be worth the investment.
Heck said the current options are preliminary and work needs to be done to hash out the details. He also said that the options aren’t necessarily the only options and residents are encouraged to submit their own ideas.
Derr Road Needs
There is little debate about the need to reconstruct Derr Road, Heck said. The current design of the project is also a safety issue, he said.
“There’s a lot of rear-end crashes and wide-angle left-turn crashes,” Heck said. “That is common when there is no dedicated turn lane.”
Heck said there have been about 80 crashes on Derr Road over the last three years.
The discussion has at times become heated between motorists and bicyclists. Louis Agresta, who works for the Clark County Transportation Coordinating Committee, said during the forum the project shouldn’t pit the community against each other.
“One of the real troubling aspects of this whole project has been that it’s pitted bicyclists versus motorists,” he said. “To me, it’s a safety project.”
Picking the right option is a must, Heck said, and more public meetings will take place before a final decision is made.
“It’s important,” Heck said. “It’s important that we get it right. The last thing we want to do as a community is make the corridor worse.”