Hold the drama on downtown lane makeover

Published 8:13 pm Friday, July 12, 2019


The Advocate-Messenger

The hottest weeks of summer are likely going to feature some of the hottest arguments of the year in Danville. That’s because the state is back with a proposal to makeover the city’s Main Street with a new dedicated turning lane, theoretically making downtown safer for pedestrians.

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There are people bitterly against the plan, which will create one lane of traffic each direction between First and Fourth streets, and a shared left-turn lane in the center. There are people enthusiastically behind it, too.

But we think summer is hot enough as it is. We don’t need a lot of the drama this proposal seems doomed to bring with it.

Most of the heat is coming from leftover animosity that should have been forgotten after an epically stupid fight in 2014. The state proposed the same thing then, but it botched the execution so spectacularly that the story ought to be in a textbook for a college government class under “exactly what not to do.”

Because things were handled so poorly, we never really got to look realistically at the potential upsides or downsides of the proposed changes; the focus became rage at inept, bureaucratic government — and some of that rage was probably justified.

But that was 2014. It’s now 2019 and it’s time to move on. Danville now has a second chance to take a serious look at a new Main Street lane layout. The city is getting six weeks of the proposed change whether or not the haters hate it.

There’s no need for shouting or jumping up and down or turning red in the face — like we said, it’s way too hot for that anyway.

Let’s resist the urge, made much worse by social media these days, to spout off and proclaim final judgment based on a single headline or sentence.

Let’s watch what happens rationally and see if we like it or not. If the new traffic pattern creates endless gridlock or sends customers fleeing from our downtown businesses, we’ll be the first to tell the state to go jump off a cliff.

But if things go fairly smoothly? If we take a shining to nicer left turns onto Fourth Street? If we find easier parking and friendlier crosswalks? We should be open to keeping good ideas if evidence bears them out.

If the City of Richmond, population 33,000, can do well with a three-lane Main Street, we think there’s a half-decent chance Danville, population 16,000, can, too. And if the three lanes come with a revitalized downtown economy and safer streets, we wouldn’t want to be the ones to pass. Let’s not throw away the possibility of something good just because of five-year-old grudges.