The Innes St. dilemma

Published 12:00 am Saturday, January 18, 2014

As so often happens, Salisbury is of two minds when it comes to the area around East Innes and Long streets.
Everyone wants the wide boulevards to be safer and more pedestrian-friendly. Two people have been killed in recent years trying to cross East Innes, and it’s not uncommon to see young people dodging cars as they make their way across the wide, busy street.
So there’s consensus on safety but not on change. Modifications that might slow down traffic and help pedestrians — medians, bike lanes, a narrowing of North Long Street — drew opposition during a public input section last week. Even Mayor Paul Woodson, whose dry-cleaning business is nearby, has said medians would be an impediment for businesses on Innes.
Last week’s objections echoed earlier debates concerning Statesville Boulevard, a.k.a. U.S. 70. Businesses and residents on U.S. 70 vehemently opposed medians, when they had their say at the public input sessions leading up to that road project several years ago. The medians went in anyway, much to the residents’ dissatisfaction.
Medians were also installed on the section of Innes Street farther to the east, near the I-85 interchange. The medians force some drivers to take U-turns, but they more definitively separate lanes of traffic.
The design firm working on the Innes-Long area now faces the challenge of balancing Salisbury’s good intentions with its practical concerns. Are they mutually exclusive, or is there a way to increase safety without hurting the free flow of traffic to businesses and churches?
One thing to take into account is the amount of foot traffic in the area. These are not sidewalks to nowhere; the area in question sees a good many pedestrians. The nation has come through an era of building developments and shopping centers virtually unreachable by foot. But not everyone can afford a car, and cities are playing catch-up with sidewalks and greenways. Here’s an area where no one has to be talked into walking; residents do it by necessity. They deserve the same safety considerations as the drivers who whip their cars around them. Crossing the street to buy a snack is not deviant behavior.
Kudos to city officials for recognizing the hazards of this area — some would say finally — and working toward a solution. No remedy is going to please everyone; change always meets resistance. But safety for pedestrians and drivers is absolutely the correct goal; the only question is how to get there.