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Church Street's One-Way Status Explored


When the plan originally surfaced, City Hall was packed with parents from Holy Cross concerned with the fate of Church Street in front of the school and the dangers presented by the two-way traffic when students would be dropped off and picked up. Instead of permanently changing the Latonia street to a one-way, the commission voted to implement a 90-day trial. The effects of that trial were discussed at a public meeting Wednesday at Holy Cross. "We feel the 90-day trial worked," said assistant city engineer Mike Yeager. "It created a safe environment for kids and didn't cause too much heartache for traffic flow."
In recommending that Church Street be one-way permanently, Yeager pointed to statistics that showed average speed on the street reduced by 5 miles per hour, there was less traffic in front of the school because of the temporary bump-outs installed, and students use the mid-street crosswalk more frequently. "Children were crossing at all areas of the street, there was no organization and we were afraid that kids were going to get hit," Yeager said. The plans for Church Street emerged during the Latonia small area study and during the 90-day trial the City monitored traffic patterns for one week, twenty-four hours a day counting cars at the corner of 36th & Church and Lincoln and Decoursey, watching the directions of the traffic flow. There was increased traffic on Lincoln and Decoursey but not enough to create significant congestion, Yeager said.
"I know the safety of the kids is more important but it would be cheaper for us to close the street at both ends," said Vickie Adams who works at Bunter & Associates accounting firm in the area and she thinks kids would not be protected on side streets were traffic has increased. Adams's suggestion was part of a chorus of questions for the permanent plans. Rick Kennedy, former chairman of the board at Sanitation District #1, the organization that would foot the bill for permanent changes to Church Street's infrastructure, was concerned with the overall cost. "It's our money whether it's SD1 or the City, it's not falling out the sky," Kennedy said. "With what I'm looking at, that'd be seven figures." Kennedy was on the SD1 board for twenty-one years, serving ten as chairman. The City did not have a cost estimate with Yeager saying that that would be determined by SD1.
Plans that would be implemented to adopt a permanent one-way traffic flow include parking on both sides of the street, bump-outs at both ends with greenery and more green infrastructure including a rain garden and storm water runoff. "The only cost to the City would be re-striping the road," Yeager said. Currently, temporary structures reflect what would be built should the one-way idea be adopted full-time. 
One Holy Cross employee whose grandchildren attend the grade school is satisfied with the change. "It's much safer for all of our students," said Judy Borchers, an officer worker at the high school. "Traffic moves faster, students adhere to crossing in the crosswalk. It just works so much easier. I have grandchildren that I now allow to go to the Indian Hut. Even if you can't afford it you've achieved better safety for the school."
While the topic was Church Street, one resident of Lincoln Avenue east of Church, raised questions about the fire department's ability to navigate the new pattern. "Lincoln Avenue is not wide enough for two-way traffic (if a fire truck is involved)," he said. "I'm concerned that the fire department would need to eliminate parking on one side."

"I don't think you'll have to worry about the City taking away parking," Fire Chief Chuck Norris said. "We have streets all over town narrower than Lincoln where we have challenges." Norris said the change on Church Street as increased response time in the neighborhood by only a few seconds. Assistant City Manager Larisa Sims said that the feedback from the discussion would be present to the commission at a legislative meeting on February 7.
Written by Michael Monks, editor & publisher of The River City News
Photo: Church Street/RCN