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Traffic flow, traffic safety and West Third

By Scott Tibbs, July 8, 2015

The medians on West Third Street had some people grumbling after they were installed, and four years later some are calling for them to be removed. But is this a good idea, from a limited-government perspective or a public safety perspective? There are three major factors to consider, regarding tearing out the median: Traffic flow, cost and safety. Let's examine those three issues.

Safety: A city engineer told the Herald-Times in 2011 that the street "is much safer now" that the median has been installed. I asked the city public works department if there was a study done to examine accidents before and after to see if the street actually is safer, but was told no such study had been done. I was referred to a national study that medians like the one on Third Street do make traffic safer overall. I am not an engineer by any means, but it does make sense that the street is safer now that left turns across multiple lanes of traffic are no longer possible.

Cost: Whether one supported spending the money to install the median or not, the median is there now. It would cost a lot of money to rip it out and re-pave the road to look like it did before the project was done. If there is not a safety benefit, then I cannot justify spending the money to take out the median, especially when there are always other infrastructure projects that need to be funded from a limited supply of money.

Traffic Flow: Ripping out the median and restoring West Third to what it looked like several years ago would significantly disrupt traffic flow along an arterial street, and that disruption would be exacerbated by the construction of Interstate 69 and the traffic that will be coming into Bloomington from I-69 along West Third. If we are not going to see a public safety benefit (especially if the road will be less safe without the median) I cannot justify the disruption of traffic flow that would be created by another large public works project.

These things are always worth considering, and the west side does legitimately feel disrespected by our city leaders. Many on the west side do not believe their voices matter as much as the rest of Bloomington, especially the university-affiliated parts of the city. That needs to change, but we need to not be rash in reacting to even unpopular decisions. Unless I see compelling statistical evidence that would demonstrate that removing the West Third median would be beneficial, I cannot support removing them.