Open house seeks comment on proposals to increase safety
COVINGTON, Ky. - Technically, the closest NASCAR track is 40 miles south, in Sparta, Ky.
But many residents of Covington neighborhoods that border Greenup Street and Scott Boulevard say they only have to look out their front doors to see what amounts to a cutthroat race every rush hour - and a crowded one at that.
The volume and speed of traffic rushing through neighborhoods marked by densely packed homes, lots of children, and parking on both sides of the streets prompted leaders of the “Eastern 4” neighborhoods last year to seek help: They asked the City whether converting parts of the streets from one-way traffic to two-way traffic would increase safety by slowing down the speeding cars.
Six months later, the study has yielded some suggestions - and it’s time for the public to see them and weigh in.
An open house will be held March 20 to discuss several proposals for changing traffic flow and intersections on three primary north-south routes through Covington - Greenup, Scott, and Madison Avenue - between 20th Street and MLK Jr. Boulevard (formerly known as 12th Street).
“Improving traffic conditions and safety along Scott and Greenup has been a priority of these neighborhoods for several years,” Covington Economic Development Director Tom West said. “The open house is an opportunity for the public to find out what the experts discovered, see different proposals being put forth, ask questions, and give feedback.”
The open house, at the Life Learning Center at 20 W. 18th St., will run from 5:30 p.m. to 7 p.m., with a brief presentation at 6 p.m. All residents are invited to attend and spend a few minutes looking at study highlights, asking questions, and providing comments about the proposals, said Chris Schneider, project manager and principal planner with Planning and Development Services of Kenton County (PDS).
Covington hired PDS in August 2018 to guide the study and craft a traffic plan for the north-south corridors. The organization has spent a half year collecting data on how many cars use the streets and how fast they go, analyzing crash data, looking at intersections and backups, and examining the effect of things like neighborhood businesses and on-street parking.
As important corridors running north and south through the City, Greenup and Scott are among the most heavily traveled routes in Covington. For example, a traffic count last fall measured over 650 vehicles per hour traveling Greenup Street during the peak morning traffic period.
The alternatives to be presented on March 20 include combinations of directional changes and traffic-control devices at selected intersections designed to increase safety.
“Community input is a critical part of creating a successful plan,” Schneider said. “The comments we receive at the open house will be reviewed by City officials as we move the study toward completion.”
West said the City began the process for two reasons:
- To be responsive to concerns from the four neighborhoods - Wallace Woods, Austinburg, Helentown, and Levassor Park.
- And to bring a sophisticated, nuanced, and long-range approach to an important discussion.
“A single-minded mission of moving cars as fast as possible through these residential neighborhoods totally ignores the complexity of the issue, the opportunities available, and goals related to economic vitality, pedestrian safety, neighborhood investment, and sense of community,” West said.
The theory behind two-way traffic is that it increases safety by slowing down traffic.
But it’s also proven to be more conducive to a better quality of life and quality of place, West said. Such a change could encourage more investment in the neighborhoods and help create walkable, bikeable environments where neighborhood businesses could flourish and homeowners would make improvements to their houses, property values would increase, and new residents would be attracted to rehab abandoned and dilapidated structures.
“That’s the conversation we’re having on a broader scale, and traffic flow is a critical part of that long-term discussion and strategy,” West said.
West in particular urged residents of the Eastern 4 neighborhoods, as well as nearby communities like the Eastside, to attend the open house.
The City has been having ongoing conversations about Greenup and Scott with the Kentucky Transportation Cabinet for months, since both corridors are currently classified as state routes, said Covington Public Works Director Rick Davis.
“Currently, Greenup and Scott are state-owned and maintained, so any changes would have to be reviewed and approved by the Cabinet,” he said.
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