By Joy Hampton
The Norman Transcript
NORMAN — Norman resident, attorney Larry Naifeh, summed up the passionate feelings expressed at city hall Tuesday at the Lindsey Street Public Forum.
“This is personal,” Naifeh said.
Lindsey has large beautiful homes, but also smaller homes and rental properties and a family run liquor store.
“That’s community,” he said. “Do not motorize our Lindsey east of Berry or I’ll be back speaking to you has a lawyer.”
Changes to the Lindsey Street design include adding a continuous raised center median with landscaping (triple canopy), mid-block pedestrian crossings, U-turns at intersections and mid-block, 5-foot sidewalks, colorized bike lanes, and the addition of bike parking.
The city, responding to suggestions from the
University of Oklahoma, has agreed on these common ideas for safety and aesthetic improvements for Lindsey Street.
In dispute is whether Lindsey Street should be four lanes all the way from 24th Avenue Southwest to Berry or if it should transition at Wylie to two lanes each way with wider bike lanes and transition lanes for buses and turning off into businesses.
Most controversial is whether any of the intersections should be managed with a roundabout rather than a traditional signal light.
While early proposals from the university’s Institute for Quality Communities suggested three roundabouts along Lindsey, the latest proposal is for a single roundabout at Lindsey and Berry Road.
Attorney Harold Heiple, representing the Norman Developers Council said though the NDC supported the suggestions of the IQC, publicity materials prior to the transportation bond promised four lanes. NDC still supports a single lane roundabout at Berry Road but is now supporting four lanes of traffic as proposed by city staff.
OU Executive Vice President Nick Hathaway said the university wants Lindsey to be a minor arterial, not a major arterial. Lindsey should be a destination, he said.
Public response was passionate on both sides of the issue with some accusing the university of throwing its political weight around and others praising the university for its contributions.
People asked how pedestrians and bicycles would safely navigate a roundabout and how much the additional costs would be. Information about the needs of right of way for a roundabout at Lindsey were not available as the engineering studies are ongoing.
Mayor Cindy Rosenthal promised that information in the near future but had few answers at this time. Discussion focused on what constitutes quality to Norman residents.
Ellen Frank asked how changes will affect neighborhood streets.
“We seem to stop projects going forth at the last minute,” Frank said. “I’m all for beautifying Lindsey and making it safer, but we’re an integrated town and we have to think about how what we do in one part of town will affect what happens in another part of town.”
Business owner Randy Woods supports Lindsey as a major arterial.
“Lindsey is a major arterial street — if it was not we would not have a 7-lane bridge being put in (at the interstate interchange),” Woods said.
Engineer Jim Hunt said changes are coming very late in the planning phase.
“This job has been in planning since 2010. There are two and a half years of public meetings,” he said. “They’re supposed to provide 90 percent plans in November.”
Hunt said roundabouts have their place when engineering supports that, but he does not believe Berry is the right place for a roundabout. He said OU event traffic is managed by making traffic flow one way in and one way out. The city can’t do that with roundabouts. He said there are right of way costs, property rights issues and fire response times to think about.
Jeff Hughes asked that the city make sure the design plans for West Lindsey are ADA friendly and that the city will meet with folks with disabilities to make sure those plans are practical and truly accessible.
“I use Lindsey Street but it’s an asphalt concrete desert,” Judith Blake said. “I would like to see Lindsey become a street that’s a destination street.”
She said more people would ride bikes if it were safer.
Joceylyn Wall who runs the international pantry on Lindsey Street but does not own the property said everyone is ignoring the next step which is to change Lindsey to high density mixed use. She fears that would price her out of business. She said many of the same people who fought against high density, mixed use near campus are promoting it where she does business.
“Quality needs to be determined by the citizens of Norman, not by outside people,” Ann Gallagher said.