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Letter | Let Islanders vote on the 'road diet'
Regarding the 'road diet' plan that would immediately narrow Island Crest Way at Merrimount, and, possibly, at 40th Street in the future: a story in the May 23 issue of the MI Reporter included a quote by City Manager Rich Conrad that, when other cities that have narrowed their roadways, "traffic continues to move well (in three lanes rather than four)." His comments misrepresent the planned changes on ICW. These changes will not leave us with three travel lanes, but rather with just two: the 'third' lane will be restricted to those who are turning left. The article also referenced Elliot Newman, who indicated that southbound drivers "already make the change from four lanes to three after they cross 40th Street going southbound, in order to get ready for the narrowing at Merrimount." That may be true, but it is certainly not an orderly change. Instead, drivers in the right lane race to get in front of cars in the left lane, swerving over at the last second as they approach Merrimount. Before the current configuration was put in place, drivers had a full 1.3 miles in which to merge into a single lane, and it was done in a much safer, less aggressive way.
No one disputes the fact that the Merrimount/ICW intersection needs modification, but trying to fix the problems there by choking off the entire roadway is a bad one. Far better would be a traffic light. Cost has been raised as an issue for this solution, but since the introduction of the road diet in 2007, the city has managed to fund at least three other stoplights at intersections that are far less traveled and at which the number of accidents had been negligible. There have also been two pedestrian lights installed on ICW. Surely one more light would not break the budget. If so, then a four-way stop sign could certainly be considered. Should that option also be too expensive, there is another obvious solution: eliminate the option of making a left turn from Merrimount to northbound ICW. Yes, drivers would instead travel a bit farther along West Mercer Way before being able to enter ICW at 40th, but it must be acknowledged that the percentage of drivers who enter and exit ICW at Merrimount is tiny compared to the traffic flow, and slashing the capacity of our major north-south lifeline to accommodate that small group is simply irrational.
It is clear that the vast majority of Islanders are opposed to the road diet plan, yet our City Council has consistently ignored these voices. Former Mayor Jim Pearman once dismissed those who spoke against the plan by saying "opinions expressed at the drop-in meeting [to discuss the plan] do not accurately reflect those of the greater community." Apparently, any opposition to the plan is considered invalid, politically motivated, or coerced. Those who favor the plan will no doubt say the same about the MI Reporter readers' online poll, which at the time of this writing shows more than 80 percent of respondents in opposition to the road diet. There's an easy way to confirm or refute the results of the survey: let us vote.