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Slow down! Traffic revisions due for Madison Avenue

"You drive too fast.But so does everyone else – welcome to Madison Avenue.“One of the problems now is that it’s a straight shot,” said Winslow architect Peter O’Connor, on the design of Winslow’s least pedestrian-friendly throughway.“Because it’s a straight shot, (drivers) focus on the end of the street. Because they focus on the end of the street, they drive faster.”O’Connor has drafted a new “traffic calming” proposal aimed at keeping speeds down on Madison, and promoting safety for area bicyclists and pedestrians.Features of the plan include:l The center turn lane, which now runs the length of the road, would be eliminated, and the driving lanes realigned at several points to swerve around new pedestrian areas and islands.l Northbound bicyclists would enjoy a dedicated lane, to help speed riders safely up the hill. The lane could be complemented by a south-bound bike lane on Grow Avenue, creating a circular pattern for commuter bicycle flow to and from the ferry terminal.l Sidewalks would be widened in front of the Pavilion building, the new city hall and the Lundgren Station building, with trees and gathering areas added.l Five crosswalks would be established at various points. O’Connor notes that there are now only three places to safely cross Madison Avenue between High School Road and Winslow Way – at those intersections, and at Wyatt Way.l Angled parking would be added in front of the Pavilion building and Winslow Green. A few new parallel spaces also would be created.The practical effect for Madison Avenue drivers would be a slight zig-zag in the roadway. Southbound drivers would see the lane angle first to the left at the Pavilion, then back to the right as they approach Winslow Way.Would motorists like it? That’s not the point – the goal of traffic calming is to keep aggressive feet off the accelerator and on the brake.“People ask me what traffic calming is, and I say it’s ‘adding clutter,’” O’Connor said. “If you can’t see, you slow down.”Similar calming projects have been tried in several other neighborhoods, with center islands established on High School Road East and speed “humps” on Crystal Springs Drive, where residents made ongoing complaints about aggressive drivers.And it’s a considerably more ambitious plan than one proposed earlier this year, when some residents called for the establishment of on-street parking, a la Winslow Way, to slow drivers down.Nobody seems to speed on Winslow Way, but as soon as they turn the corner, all bets are off.“You take your life in your hands when you cross Madison,” O’Connor said. “People just don’t pay attention.”It was just this concern that prompted the city council’s public works committee to consider the calming measures.“I’m really concerned that somebody’s going to be hurt if we don’t do something quickly,” committee chair Norm Wooldridge said.“The old idea was, you open it up and cars are king, and you give them highest priority. Things have changed.”The presence of the Pavilion building and movie theater, and the imminent opening of the new city hall on Madison Avenue, have lent new urgency to the proposal.A variety of plans have been considered by the committee, which has leaned toward what O’Connor calls his “pedestrian gathering option.”He modeled the proposal on urban areas he saw during a recent visit to Portugal. There, streets were blocked off to create pedestrian-oriented squares that brought shoppers and other downtown wayfarers together.Such a plan could help downtown Winslow’s economic and cultural vitality, he said.“What you see there in the evenings is a lot of people,” O’Connor said. “It’s tourists. It’s locals. It’s just a very pleasant place to go and hang out.”Motorists could see the changes implemented on a trial basis within a month or two. Temporary measures could include “parking blocks,” and barriers and planters, and roughed-in crosswalks.Together, they would establish the new traffic flow without the expense of permanent improvements. Public comment would then be solicited to see how it’s worked.“It’ll be much more meaningful than making a scale model and putting it on a board,” Wooldridge said.If the idea flies – or rather, if drivers don’t – the measures could be permanently built into the road next year. Wooldridge said money has been set aside in the city budget for the work, and he will give a brief report on the project at Wednesday’s city council meeting."

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