Salisbury’s sales pitch starts now
Salisbury City Council has a tough sales job in its future.
It must show that crosswalks, landscaping, crossing signals, medians, bike lanes and curb bump-outs are important to the future of East Innes and Long Streets.
For $3.1 million, these cosmetic changes and construction elements can attain worthy city goals of calming traffic, promoting pedestrian safety and making the streets more attractive.
But will they be palatable to Salisbury motorists, taxpayers and the property owners along the two thoroughfares?
Mayor Paul Woodson, for one, remembers how controversial medians were on U.S. 70 for businesses and residents who asked why they should have to drive past their destinations and make U-turns to get where they were going.
Woodson, whose dry-cleaning business is on North Long Street, also is a veteran from years back of trying to persuade property owners along East Innes Street that a Planning Board-generated corridor overlay was in their best interests.
So Woodson deserves credit for urging the city staff to reach out to every business and property owner on both streets to show how they might be affected by the 58-page Complete Streets plan.
Even though a design team has held more than 30 meetings with the public, including three workshops and a three-day design charrette, the real selling of this idea has to start now — and it won’t be easy.
The $120,000 Complete Streets plan is a good one. It would make the eastern entrance into Salisbury from Interstate 85 more attractive, and that’s something in which Salisbury already has heavily invested, just in burying utility lines alone.
Complete Streets would improve pedestrian safety with the medians, crosswalks and bump-outs. Ask any regular walker in these areas, and they’ll tell you how uneasy they are in getting across five lanes of traffic. Pedestrian fatalities on two separate occasions were the springboard for the Complete Streets study. In each case, the victim was trying to cross the five lanes of East Innes Street.
As drafted, the plan also calls for no medians in the middle of blocks that would prevent left turns into businesses or force vehicles to make the dreaded U-turns farther down the streets.
There’s more to like about Complete Streets, including bicycle lanes on South Long Street to aid in making it narrower. The overall plan and the way it has been priced also lends itself to being implemented element by element, block by block, and probably year by year. Still, as they continued, changes could have dramatic impact.
City officials and staff have considerable time and money invested in Complete Streets, but the city’s $12,000 budget expenditure in the overall plan doesn’t mean it’s beyond the point of bailing out and deciding funds should be directed elsewhere.
First, they need to hear how painful property owners think it could be and find solutions for the toughest problems. And in their sales pitch, they have to show why Complete Streets can be a complete package, palatable to all.