Time is now to resolve Ericksen Avenue
June 9, 2008 · Updated 2:56 PM
"Passions run high on Ericksen Avenue.This we learned while covering the city council back in 1992, when Ericksen residents and neighbors beat down an attempt to open the quiet road as a temporary thruway to Hildebrand Lane, even as the dusty reconstruction of High School Road tossed the rest of Winslow-area traffic flow into chaos.In the years since, we've strolled the quaint Ericksen corridor many times. We've come to value and appreciate the historic character so treasured by neighbors. We've also been brushed by countless passing vehicles, or forced to tread the lawns of the old funeral home and other properties to keep a safe distance from the roadway.Now, with a sizeable multi-use development planned for nearby Hildebrand Lane, the fire district and city engineers have again raised the possibility of running Ericksen through to High School Road, creating a new north-south arterial next to the highway. And for the first time, we are forced to concede, the notion seems somewhat inevitable, if not in fact desirable...After looking around unsuccessfully for a helmet to don, we did dig out our copy of the Winslow Master Plan for guidance. Says that document:Ericksen should be opened to Hildebrand Lane only A) if the extension includes curves, a median and other traffic-calming measures, plus bike lanes and sidewalks, and B) after a thorough traffic study looks at the implications for north-south vehicle travel on Madison Avenue, Grow Avenue and other streets and intersections in the immediate area.Certain other complications arise - Hildebrand Lane, to our knowledge, remains a private road that has never been dedicated to the city. And what about the pocket park at Ericksen and Wallace - would it be lost to new traffic lanes as the streets are joined?This week's sooner or later comments by city engineers notwithstanding, opening Ericksen Avenue strikes us a serious policy decision worthy of the city council's time and attention. And it raises one of those chicken-and-egg dilemmas:Should the appearance of a single large-scale development nearby drive the Ericksen question? Or do we wait until incremental, onesies and twosies construction around the Winslow area makes traffic on Ericksen completely unbearable, and even more unsafe for pedestrians and bicyclists for lack of amenities like sidewalks and shoulders?On that question, the Winslow plan offers no guidance, no time-frame, and as near as we can tell, no direction whatever.Opening Ericksen to accommodate a nearby development may well carry an unpalatable tang for neighbors. But Jim Laughlin's project isn't going away, and neither is the general increase in traffic volume that has come with the higher-density development in the Winslow area.So if not now, when? That question needs to be resolved, and this seems a reasonable time to hash it out once and for all."