Despite various concerns that have been raised about traffic along 2nd Street, city officials on Tuesday presented a number of problems with suggestions such as lowering the speed limit, adding speed bumps or implementing more stops.
City Engineer Kevin Collignon noted that the original downtown Master Plan included hopes for two-way traffic and a 20 mph speed limit on 2nd Street.
Those plans were scrapped after a traffic engineer found it would be more cost effective to calm traffic by implementing curb extensions, and the speed limit was reduced to 25 mph.
Collignon also presented an evaluation conducted by his office that included a history of vehicle accidents on 2nd Street from Daviess to Frederica streets, including one vehicle-pedestrian collision. He said most other accidents were due to driver inattention rather than high speed, resulting in mostly rear-end and side-swiping accidents.
Collignon also reported two incidents of vehicles running up on curbs — one in 2016, and one that occurred two weeks ago that prompted the City to shut down a portion of the street to traffic on Friday evenings.
According to Collignon, a speed study performed in May revealed that 85% of 2nd Street drivers kept at or below the 25 mph speed limit.
Collignon said neither his department nor Owensboro Police Department saw a consistent problem with speeding vehicles.
“Not to say some people aren’t speeding, but [the speed limit] seems to be functioning as designed,” he said.
With the stop light signals timed the way they are, it maintains a “smooth traffic flow,” Collignon added.
“When you have a smooth traffic flow, you help minimize your accidents,” he noted. “The signal flows are operating as designed.”
Collignon said he’s heard the suggestion of all-way stops, but said that could create the potential for more rear-end collisions.
“If you lose the signals, you lose that designated pedestrian crossing phase,” he said. “If you make them stop at every intersection, it likely encourages driver disobedience, such as rolling stops. People might start to avoid downtown. It could create a lot of congestion. 2nd Street gets about 10,000 vehicles a day — that’s a lot of volume.”
Collignon also said his department did not recommend speed bumps on any City street that saw more than 10,000 cars a day. The only speed hump in the City is located at Kentucky Wesleyan College.
Speed humps were only used in low-traffic areas, he continued, and they could potentially do more harm than good. Speed humps were an obstacle for drivers that could cause a loss of control for vehicles.
They also caused issues for snow plows and emergency vehicles, and would potentially increase the noise level, as drivers tended to speed up between them.
Collignon suggested restaurants and bars shift outdoor cafe seating so that tables were closer to the buildings than the street.
As for lowering the speed limit, Collignon said that didn’t make sense because most people were complying with it at 25 mph.
“People usually drive at the speed they are comfortable with. I don’t know that people are going to travel 15 mph without constant enforcement,” he said.
OPD Chief Art Ealum said his officers had more important matters to deal with than constant traffic enforcement on 2nd Street.
“We have more significant issues in this city than to be concerned with people driving 30 in a 25,” he said. “If it’s a public safety issue … we will address it. But we are short-handed. We’re 24 people down at this time.”