The Norman Transcript

August 15, 2013

City engineers give median thumbs up

By Joy Hampton
The Norman Transcript

NORMAN — The city design team likes the idea of a center median for West Lindsey Street but does not support roundabouts for intersections, according to a report issued this week.

An analysis of alternative design concepts for the West Lindsey Street bond project was handed to members of the Norman City Council on Tuesday night. The report identifies design specifics recommended by the University of Oklahoma Institute for Quality communities in partnership with Dan Burden of the Walkable and Livable Communities Institute and makes recommendations for which features should be included in the final design.

“We really worked hard to analyze the impacts of those options,” Norman Public Works Director Sean O’Leary said. “We concluded that the raised medians was an excellent idea.”

City council members are expected to give guidance on that design sometime this month.

“Early out, we had these discussions. To be frank, Dan Burden’s people helped us understand the necessity for these medians,” council member Tom Kovach said.

In short, designers approve of a landscaped center median to separate four lanes of traffic. However, the design team does not recommend roundabouts.

O’Leary said roundabouts are a great option in corridors where there is land available, but that is not the case at Lindsey Street. Acquiring additional right of way also is costly.

“Roundabouts take a lot of right of way,” Kovach said. “I think we’ve got a really good hybrid version here.”

On average, 20,000 vehicles travel Lindsey Street every day. The crash rate on Lindsey is three times the national average and the highest in Norman for similar roadways.

Additionally, the north side of the Lindsey Street and McGee Drive intersection is the No. 1 stormwater problem in the city.

Plans to fix these problems are on the city’s drawing board and, thanks to voters who approved a multi-million dollar bond transportation bond package in April 2012, construction is expected to begin in 2015 to coincide with the Oklahoma Department of Transportation’s replacement of the Interstate 35 and Lindsey Street interchange.

The plans to widen Lindsey from 24th Avenue Southwest to Berry Road will provide for increased traffic capacity and allow multi-modal transportation systems within the Lindsey corridor including mass transit, five-foot sidewalks for pedestrians and colorized bike lanes.

Additionally the plan is to decrease driveway access by 30 driveways or more to make exits and entries safer.

“I think we’ll have a lot safer travel down Lindsey,” Kovach said.

Aesthetic improvements include a triple canopy of landscaping with six-foot planter strips on roadside and in the median. Crosswalks at intersections and ADA compliance will make the area safer for pedestrians. LED street lights and drought-tolerant landscaping will be environmentally friendly, provide cost savings and improve the aesthetics.

Wayfinding signage will make Lindsey more visitor friendly and help it serve as one of Norman’s gateways.

Burden proposed modern roundabouts at three intersections including Murphy Street, Wiley Road and Berry Road, but city staff and the design consultant, SAIC Inc., does not support that proposal. Citing traffic capacity, scheduling delays, right of way requirements, the possible loss of federal funding and additional project costs, the design team did not find roundabouts feasible.

Kovach said the city team’s recommendation hits a good compromise that is workable and safe for drivers, cyclists and pedestrians.

Joy Hampton