Group makes case for ‘street diet’

Jul. 02, 2014 @ 10:31 AM

Why pursue a “street diet” of one of High Point’s major thoroughfares?
It will help attract new businesses, draw pedestrians and grow property values, without causing traffic congestion, while perhaps even decreasing drive time.
That’s the conclusion of We Heart High Point, a group of residents that recently completed an informal traffic study to get a sense of what it would be like if part of N. Main Street was reduced from four to two lanes of vehicular traffic.
The street diet is the top recommendation of the Ignite High Point revitalization master plan that the group touts.
Its members are trying to draw the attention of the public — and the City Council — to the benefits of the concept.
“We want to see the street diet and revitalization happen somewhere,” said Elijah Lovejoy, one of the members of the group who helped present the findings of the study Tuesday.
The focus of the study was to test travel times and traffic volumes on four alternate side roads parallel to N. Main Street between Parkway and Russell avenues.
Can the four routes — Hamilton, Wrenn, Lindsay and Elm streets — handle more vehicles if motorists wanted to use them instead of a dieted Main Street?
Group members said they believe the answer is yes.
They recently spent 12 hours — 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. — counting the number of vehicles on each street. The results — 1,994 counted on Hamilton, 1,479 on Wrenn, 2,320 on Elm and 4,553 on Lindsay — indicate that the roads around Main Street do have the capacity to accommodate more traffic, Lovejoy said.
“All you hear about the street diet are the negatives, how it would create traffic problems and hurt the furniture market,” said Monica Peters, one of the founding members of We Heart High Point. “The point is, there are all these alternate routes. So, we want the public to be aware of this and be open-minded.”
The group released results for its test-drive travel times for each route compared to the 3 minutes and 34 seconds it took to drive from Parkway to Russell on N. Main Street: Hamilton (3 minutes, 59 seconds), Wrenn (4 minutes, 44 seconds), Elm (3 minutes, 2 seconds) and Lindsay (5 minutes, 6 seconds).
A city-commissioned traffic study is underway that is looking at the feasibility of dieting Main Street between Parkway and Lexington avenues.
The results, expected this summer, will guide council’s upcoming decisions on whether to pursue the idea.