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Reducing Main Avenue’s Lanes Won’t Improve Traffic

Driven Main Avenue during peak times lately? You’ve probably found the commute through downtown to be quite a headache. Between parallel parking cars on the right and left-turning cars waiting endlessly on the left, traffic sometimes comes to a halt.

POLL: Should Main Avenue Lanes Be Reduced: 4 to 2 With Left Turns?

The city is looking at ways to improve the flow of this busy stretch of road. One suggestion… reduce the through lanes from four to two, with a continuous left turn lane running parallel in the middle.

While this certainly tackles the backups caused by left turning cars, it also reduces the capacity of through traffic by half. Is this an improvement?

I fail to understand how reducing the capacity of through traffic – the majority – will improve flow.

What can be done instead?

First, add left turning signals at all Main Avenue intersections. Once this is done, provide one side of the road a protected head start to allow protected left-hand turns. Then, at the end, give the other side a few moments of exclusive protected flow. Essentially, each side would receive, say, 15 seconds of exclusive right-of-way. In between each protected session, both sides will operate as they normally do.

Is this solution perfect? No. However, it does improve traffic backup from left-turn congestion without reducing capacity.

Another option to consider: Establish a pair of east-west one-ways traveling the length of the city, similar to 7th/9th. Rosser and Broadway would arguably be the best choice; removing the nuisance Thayer Avenue one-way in the process.

This option, albeit more costly, would establish two-lane travel for both east and west traffic without reducing capacity for any roads. While it won’t improve capacity, one-way travel removes the obstacle of left-turn yields.