Next Monday, the City of Ithaca board of public works will consider approving a plan for the proposed Mitchell and State /MLK Jr. Street intersection project. So far, engineers have developed four possible scenarios for the intersection.

Tim Logue, the city’s transportation engineer, who is also serving as the project’s manager, held a public information session on January 15 to go over the four possible scenarios for the intersection, which includes not only the installation of a new traffic signal configuration but also widening of the street and the addition of bike and pedestrian features.

“This project’s been a year or two in development,” Logue said. “Some of the early parts of the project came out during discussions with the Collegetown Terrace project as it went through the site plan review process. It was not a requirement of that project that the road be widened, but the property owner was willing to look at it. As we discussed it we thought it was actually a good improvement for the city, which has been looking at this intersection off and on I suppose for a few decades.”

Logue said his predecessors put sketches together for the intersection, which he himself described as being generally considered awkward or a little confusing.

“I never thought of it as pedestrian friendly, and with the Collegetown Terrace project essentially doubling the population immediately south of the intersection, it seemed like there was a good opportunity to look at the intersection here,” Logue added.

Logue said the idea is that the road-widening portion will be done part by city forces and part by the Collegetown Terrace project.

Ken Wersted of Creighton Manning Engineering, the consulting firm working with the city on the project, went over the four scenarios one by one. He said the four scenarios, while different concepts, contain similar themes in different variations.

The first two options, 1A and 1B, maintain the existing island while the other scenarios, 2A and 2B, remove it. Both ‘A’ options feature traffic signals on span wire, while the ‘B’ options feature signals on mast arms.

The scenarios also offer two different bicycle treatments for the State/MLK Jr. Street uphill bike lane. Both ‘A’ options include a bike box – a painted box in front of the vehicular stop line where a bicycle would wait to turn left up Mitchell Street or proceed up East State/MLK Jr. Street.

Logue noted that the bike box is still considered experimental, so if the city chooses that option they would need permission from the U.S. Department of Transportation.

The other bike treatment, present in both “B” options, is a bike “jug handle.” The bicyclist who wants to turn left onto Mitchell Street would proceed to a waiting area with its own light to cross traffic. Logue explained the crossing area would be parallel to the crosswalk for pedestrians who are crossing from the Collegetown Terrace Side of State/MLK Street to Mitchell. He added that more confident cyclists who want to merge with the left-turning vehicular traffic would still be able to do so, but that the jug handle would provide another option.

Wersted noted that while the options that maintain the island make for a shorter crosswalk from the south to north side, it would require crossing two roads to get to the northern corner, with pedestrians able to wait on the island with a push button. While the crossing is a longer distance for the no-island options, pedestrians would not have to wait for two signals, he said.

Wersted also noted that with the “1” options that there are right-of-way impacts that would need to be sorted out.

After hearing about the four options, members of the public expressed concerns about traffic traveling down Mitchell to the intersection getting stacked up at the intersection and making it difficult for residents on Mitchell to get in and out of their driveways or for other vehicles to pull in and out of side-streets.

The board will consider the scenarios at its meeting Feb. 4. For more information about the project, contact Tim Logue 274-6535 or timlo@cityofithaca.org.

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