My Turn, Pam Coffield: Traffic lanes shouldn’t be reduced in Downtown Main Street Plan

Published 12:00 am Sunday, February 28, 2021

By Pam Hylton Coffield

The first phase of the Downtown Main Street Plan proposes changing North and South Main streets to three lanes instead of four — one southbound lane and one northbound lane with a center turn lane.

The purpose of this letter is to express my support for keeping four lanes of traffic on Main Street as it is now. I am opposed to reducing the lanes down to three for the following reasons.

• Traffic would back up behind delivery trucks. It would also force backed-up traffic to pass the truck using the middle turn lane resulting in possible accidents or confusion with oncoming cars entering the same lane. 

• If delivery trucks are parked in the middle turn lane, the drivers would be in danger when crossing a traveling lane to make their deliveries. My employees and I would also be in danger because many times we assist the drivers unload and carry in boxes. It would also block the middle lane for turning cars. This is a major issue since the majority of businesses receive their deliveries through the front entrances of their buildings.

• I make deliveries to the front of my store frequently in my personal car because I don’t have access to the back of the building. Most of the time, all parking spaces are filled. If I parked temporarily in the one traveling lane, traffic would back up. Some cars would pass, but that would result in the same confusion stated above. If I parked in the middle turn lane, I would have to cross traveling lane to enter my business leaving my parked car in the middle lane which may cause a traffic problem.

• The need for a middle turn lane may be unjustified because the only places to turn are at the corners, not at the square. If the pressing issue is turning left at the square, it could probably be implemented with the four lanes without changing to three. I do not favor turning left from Main Street on to Innes Street for two reasons: A. The turning car would have to wait for cars to pass and also watch out for pedestrians crossing the street which would present a safety issue. Recently, I was barely missed by a car making this unlawful turn. B. It would encourage cars to drive away from Main Street, which would reduce the chance of drivers stopping unexpectedly to shop.

• The need for longer angled parking spaces may be somewhat justified, but the reported accidents downtown involving parked cars are extremely minimal. 

• When traffic is rerouted through Main Street off the interstate, the backup and congestion is atrocious now. With only three lanes, it would be increasingly worse. A vehicle breaking down would only intensify the congestion. This happens more frequently than one would think.

• The funneling of traffic from four traveling lanes down to two traveling lanes would result in drivers and customers avoiding Main Street altogether. This alone would reduce sales volume and the chance of drivers spontaneously stopping to shop.

• Traffic between lights would backup, resulting in the possibility of drivers having to wait through several red lights. Again, this would discourage drivers from driving in the downtown area at all.

• Customers would experience more difficulty pulling out of parking spaces due to the increased steady stream and backing up of traffic. That would be reason enough for them to shop elsewhere.

• The police and fire response time to accidents could be jeopardized due to the accident blocking traffic and impeding access.

• Four lanes would accommodate future city growth.  Three lanes discourage growth.

• Downtown has been struggling with the fallout of COVID this past year. Repaving Main Street is going to be traumatic enough without subjecting shoppers to a major traffic modification.

There are not enough judiciously compelling reasons for the change that would assure steadfast benefit to downtown, merchants and customers. Possibly some of the issues at hand could be explored in another way, while still keeping the four lanes we have now. 

Our, four-lane Main Street, angled parking and wide sidewalks are the dreams of most downtowns our size. Traffic moves well, back up is not an issue, delivery trucks can park and deliver goods with little impact on passing cars, speeding vehicles are not an issue, accidents are few, and longer trucks and cars have not caused a huge parking or accident problem.  

This is my 46th year as a downtown merchant. The four lanes have served our city well. This past year has been devastating to sales and profits. I am extremely concerned that a change of this magnitude could be crippling to my business and the rest of downtown if it did not work. It would be disastrous to risk any kind of a negative impact on downtown merchants despite how small the change.

On Tuesday, the next draft of the Downtown Main Street Plan will be presented to city council. The public is invited to comment via Zoom. Sign up to speak by emailing Kelly Baker, city clerk, at Kbake@salisburync.gov or calling 704-638-5233 by 5 p.m. on Tuesday.

It is imperative that all downtown merchants, business owners, employees, property owners, delivery truck drivers, emergency workers, shoppers and any others who may be impacted by this change, sign up to speak at the public hearing and let your city council members hear your concerns about how this change could impact the future of your business.

If joining the zoom meeting is not possible, I have listed our city council’s names and email addresses below for your convenience.  It is so important that they hear from you.

Mayor Karen Alexander, Karen.Alexander@salisburync.gov

Mayor Pro Tem, Al Heggins, Al.Heggins@salisburync.gov

David Post, David.Post@salisburync.gov

Brian Miller, Brian.Miller@salisburync.gov

Tamara Sheffield   Tamara.Sheffield@salisburync.gov

Pam Coffield is a veteran retailer at Stitchin Post Gifts, at 104 South Main St., in Downtown Salisbury.

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