Everything old is new again on MadisonThe road goes back to normal Nov. 13. But did calming work?
June 9, 2008 · Updated 3:18 PM
"It generated praise. It generated scorn.More than anything, it generated mail - more than 400 written comments to city hall over a two-month period.Now, with an experimental traffic calming project on Madison Avenue winding down, it's up to city officials to decide whether it actually worked.It's been a fun exercise, because it provoked a lot of comments, Mayor Dwight Sutton said Thursday, in his office overlooking the controversial project. That's okay right there.The roadway will be restriped to its original layout Nov. 13, but could return in modified - and permanent - form sometime next year.The $43,000 temporary calming effort went into effect in early September, with the center lane removed and the traffic lanes restriped to introduce a series of curves. Parking spaces were added near the Pavilion and Winslow Green, and three crosswalks were established. A number of rented trees were placed around the roadway, to suggest how landscaping might look if the sidewalks were extended out.The goal was to slow traffic, and make a more pedestrian-friendly environment.Since then, the project has been described as everything from slalom course to fiasco. But while it was frequently ridiculed by drivers, the project was hailed as a boon to pedestians in the downtown core.Friday morning, new public works director Randy Witt toured the project with Winslow architect Peter O'Connor - commissioned to design the project last year - and two city engineers.The junket served as a review of the effort's successes and failures, with a definite eye toward future improvements.Several apparent defects were identified, including a too-small turning radius for vehicles at several driveways and at the Madison/Winslow Way intersection.The Madison/Wyatt Way intersection was also found to be poorly aligned, with drivers using a north-bound turn lane heading straight at oncoming traffic. Other problems included the loss of a bus turnout next to the Pavilion, and poor visibility for motorists leaving the Winslow Green parking area.Few of the dozens of white plastic pylons remained around the street; most were run over repeatedly during the trial period, and those that didn't succumb to tire damage were eventually cut down.I've seen people driving down the road just hitting them all, city engineer Jeff Jensen said of the pylons, which were intended to make the lane markings visible at night until drivers got used to the changes.The less tangible sense of place goal was also deemed a failure - no businesses took advantage of the new spaces carved out for sidewalk sales or outside dining, possibly because of the lateness of the season and the failure of several nearby eateries.Part of the project's problems are also being ascribed to the fact that no formal survey of the right of way was done before the project was designed and striped, to keep costs down.All of which leaves the question for the city council: Did it work?Council chair Merrill Robison, who represents the central ward, answered in the affirmative.Traffic calming and the crosswalks were very much a success, Robison said this week. (The) form needs a lot of thorough thought.Sutton agreed that the project has slowed traffic somewhat.We've certainly been beaten about the head and shoulders, Sutton said, but that's okay. We invited that. And we've got constructive ideas.Public works staff will now sift through the voluminous comments, with a formal report expected to the city council in the coming weeks.Witt said that while most of the early comments were negative, they gradually shifted to I like it but..., with citizens suggesting modifications to make it work better.A permanent version would see sidewalks and curbing extended out into the roadway.In the meantime, at least two of the new crosswalks - the only ones on the quarter-mile stretch between Winslow Way and Wyatt Way - will be retained, although they will be moved away from commercial driveways.This is too long a street to have no crosswalks, Witt said.O'Connor said most of the comments he received were positive, with one person telling him this is the only time I've felt like Madison belonged on Bainbridge Island.And, O'Connor said, I've haven't been run over yet, so I guess that's a plus. "