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Most impactful stories of 2019: Changes on Main define downtown Danville

 

Editor’s note: This is the 2nd of five stories chosen by The Advocate-Messenger’s staff as the most impactful of 2019.

Few topics earned front-page status more in 2019 than Danville’s Main Street.

Of course, there are all the festivals and events that regularly get A1 photos, but this was a truly impactful year for news from Boyle County’s biggest downtown.

The state resurfaced Main Street and completed a lane reduction plan, which had been feared by many but turned out to be widely popular once it actually happened. 

Main was also the scene of a tragic fatal wreck that is still fresh in the minds of many. And that fatality has sparked renewed efforts from every corner of government and the community to make downtown Danville a safer place to walk.

Still to come next year: Watch for construction of the city’s new fire station next to city hall; Danville completing the design phase for another streetscape project between Second and Fourth streets; and perhaps even the landing of a grant to make that streetscape a reality.

Here are some selected moments from throughout 2019 of our coverage of big news on Main:

 

July 12: Lane reduction announced

 

Danville’s Main Street is getting a lane reduction for six weeks beginning Aug. 1. It’s a temporary test that could result in a permanent change to traffic flow along one of Danville’s busiest roads if the state Transportation Cabinet likes what it sees and local officials don’t object.

The four-lane portion of Main Street between First and Fourth streets will be restriped for three lanes — one each direction and a center turning lane, according to a news release from the Transportation Cabinet.

The state will also add a “dedicated left-turn signal” at the Fourth Street intersection.

“The trial revision for striping and the signal system will be installed after Aug. 1. Temporary changes will be in effect for a period of six weeks,” according to the release. “The Department of Highways, District 7 Office, will hold a public meeting after a four-week trial period. The public meeting will serve as an opportunity to receive citizen feedback.”

The state “will utilize collected data and public input to evaluate the temporary changes,” according to the release. “Decisions will be made after the evaluation process is completed.”

 

July 12: Officials react to lane reduction

 

If state transportation officials want the support of local officials for a lane reduction on Danville’s Main Street, they still have some convincing to do.

“It ain’t going to be milk and honey,” said Mike Perros, Danville’s mayor. “The issue downtown is not number of lanes, it’s the speed of traffic. I have asked District 7 to provide us tools to help slow down that traffic. I have heard nothing along those lines.”

But there are vocal supporters of the lane reduction, as well. Boyle County Magistrate Jason Cullen is a business owner who operates the Hub Coffee Shop on Main Street. His business is one of those that could be affected by the change.

“I am extremely excited about this,” he said. “I have been waiting for this for years. I’m not happy that we’re technically wasting transportation dollars on this trial run.”

“They still believe that traffic flow improvements can be made and safety can be improved by these proposed changes, and they had data to support those conclusions,” Danville City Manager Ron Scott said. “We talked about, ‘What if it doesn’t work? Or are you just imposing your design standards on a community?'”

Perros said Boyle County Judge-Executive Howard Hunt was the one who convinced the state to also try installing a left-turn signal at the intersection of Fourth and Main streets, where traffic often backs up for multiple light cycles as vehicles wait to turn left from Main onto Fourth.

“They were very hesitant to do so, but the judge insisted and they agreed to it, and I’m glad they’re honoring that commitment,” Perros said.

 

July 13: ‘Hold the drama’

 

EDITORIAL

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.

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.

 

July 26: ‘Screaming about roads’

 

By ELAINE WILSON-REDDY

Contributing columnist

Speaking of screaming about roads, the state is getting ready to reconfigure Main Street and the usual suspects are up in arms. Change does not come easy to our little village and changing Main Street creates levels of apoplexy rarely seen beyond the doors of the ICU. The state is literally talking about changing three blocks of pavement. Three blocks, not three miles.

Our Main Street is dangerous. If a driver wants to make a left turn, she must watch for two on-coming lanes of traffic and also watch for pedestrians. Trying to make a left onto Fourth Street or Second Street is taking your life into peril since the turning driver can only see one lane of on-coming traffic.

… The good news is that the state is going to let us try the change before making a permanent decision. Many other towns with thriving Main Street businesses have the capacity to safely turn left and allow pedestrian traffic while utilizing three lanes. I think Danville can do this; I really do.

 

Aug. 1: Re-striping takes effect

 

Motorists who travel on Main Street will experience a new way to get to their destinations when the transportation cabinet implements its lane reduction and dedicated turning lanes on a trial basis beginning today or Friday.

According to a news release from the Kentucky Transportation Cabinet on Wednesday, “a temporary test period will be implemented for striping and adjustments to the signal system. The trial revision for striping and the signal system will be installed Aug. 1 (today.) Temporary changes will be in effect for a period of six weeks.”

Dotted white lines have been painted on Main Street, designating where traffic will be required to travel, as left-hand turning lanes are added.

As of Wednesday evening, no new traffic signals had been installed, and a few downtown business owners were unsure when exactly the lane reduction was to take place.

 

Aug. 17: Elected officials don’t want public meeting

 

Several elected officials questioned why it is necessary for the Kentucky Transportation Cabinet to have a public meeting for the general public to voice opinions about the Main Street lane reduction trial.

Danville Mayor Mike Perros said he was concerned about involving the public.

“… I appreciate getting all these people together in this room. We’re either elected officials or we’re professional staff. Now you’re going to have a public meeting Sept. 5. So, what happens if you’ve got 30 people show up and say, ‘We want it some other way.’ Who are you going to listen to? If we’ve got 12, 15 of us in this room, and 30 people say ‘We want it differently,’ who are you going to listen to?”

“Are you saying we shouldn’t have a public meeting?” Kelly Baker with the Transportation Cabinet asked.

“That’s what we’re saying,” answered Boyle County Magistrate Phil Sammons.

Magistrate Jason Cullen said, “I think public comment’s great. But you might be putting too much weight …” on the handful of people who may show up for the public meeting.

“Don’t you think a lot of times the more meetings you have the more confusion you get?” asked Sammons.

 

Sept. 7: Public meeting anticlimactic

 

Officials with the Kentucky Transportation Cabinet’s District 7 came back to town Thursday, this time to let the public offer feedback on the trial period of the lane reconfiguration for Main Street. The meeting room in Danville City Hall was packed full of downtown business owners, residents, public officials and some representing the population who want bike lanes added to the now two-lane Main Street.

But many walked away feeling the event was anticlimactic. Just as the informational part of the meeting concluded, a gentleman on the front row asked: “You mean that’s it?”

Dr. Candice Wallace, a facilitator with the University of Kentucky College of Engineering, said yeah — that’s it. “You go look at pictures … fill out the form, vote for the one you want — bike lanes, no bike lanes or go back to what you had …” she told him.

 

Sept. 12: Lane change ‘overwhelmingly positive’

 

EDITORIAL

The Advocate-Messenger

The new Main Street lane configuration in downtown Danville should be made permanent.

The lane change was put in place by the state Transportation Cabinet over a month ago. During the past five weeks, we’ve gotten a real-world test of what effects would be felt by the change — not a simulation or an estimate, but actual experience.

We would like to see the hard data collected by the state on what the lane change did to traffic flow. Statistics would provide solid ground on which to substantiate what seems to be the case. But we also don’t need the hard data to know things are better. The difference can be felt just by driving Main Street once.

 

Sept. 20: No bike lanes

 

The Kentucky Department of Transportation has decided bike lanes will not be included in the permanent redesign of Danville’s Main Street. A release from District 7 says it “has decided to move forward to permanently implement the lane reallocation proposal.”

When asked what went into determining bike lanes would not be included, Natasha Lacy, spokesperson for District 7, said, “After evaluating all received public input and safety enhancements unique to each alternative, it was determined that the lane configuration with a wider center lane refuge area, wider street parking, and offset left turning lanes was the appropriate layout at this time.”

 

Oct. 25: Two pedestrians hit

 

Two women were injured when the driver of an SUV struck them while they were walking across Main Street at the intersection of Third Street Friday evening.

At 7:35 p.m., Jennifer L. Devine, 52, of Danville was driving a 2016 Chevy Tahoe northbound on Third Street. While making a left-hand turn onto Main, the vehicle struck pedestrians Shan S. Kihlman, 70, and Lana S. Cleveland, 72, both of Danville, according to police.

Kihlman was taken to Ephraim McDowell Regional Medical Center for non-life threatening injuries. Cleveland was transported to the Danville hospital then flown by helicopter to the University of Kentucky Medical Center with a severe head injury. Devine was not injured.

 

Oct. 30: Keep making downtown safer

 

EDITORIAL

The Advocate-Messenger

The intersections of Third and Fourth streets with Main Street have been hot spots for vehicle vs. pedestrian accidents for years. The new lane layout for Main Street has definitely improved traffic flow and it may have reduced speeds, but clearly it did not solve the problem of pedestrian safety.

One obstacle to making things better is the fact that all three roads are highways maintained by the state. There are probably no roads more walked by Danville residents than the ones downtown, but those same residents have almost no direct influence over how those roads are run.

 

Nov. 1: Pedestrian hit dies

 

One of the pedestrians struck at the intersection of Third and Main streets in Danville on Oct. 25 died today at a Lexington hospital.

Lana S. Cleveland, 72, of Danville, was pronounced dead at 3:23 p.m. Nov. 1, according to Fayette County Chief Deputy Coroner Greg Haley.

 

Nov. 7: Another pedestrian hit

 

The intersection of Main and Third streets in Danville was yet again the scene of a pedestrian hit by a motorist turning at the light, this time resulting in only a minor injury. The incident happened Thursday afternoon, during dreary, wet conditions.

A woman was hit walking across Main Street, as a car attempted to turn left onto Main from Third Street. She is believed to have been treated on the scene for minor injuries.

 

Nov. 13: Letter wants change

 

I am still shocked and grieving at the death of Sue Cleveland, the pedestrian who was hit crossing Main Street a couple of weeks ago. As has been reported, another pedestrian was recently hit at that same intersection, Main Street at Third in downtown Danville.

This intersection has had multiple occasions of pedestrian injuries and deaths over the years. It has been stated that not much else can be done to make that intersection safer, that we are an impatient society and lack of attention is the problem. It is undoubtedly true that people, drivers and pedestrians, are inattentive. But, when one specific intersection is the site of multiple pedestrian-automobile accidents, we have to think again of ways to improve safely. Think outside the box! …

 

Katie Bright

Danville

 

Nov. 15: Residents push for change

 

Citizens took to the podium Tuesday night to share their grief, frustration and ideas with the city commission over the events. Some took elected officials to task for not standing up to the Kentucky Department of Highways District 7, the Lexington office which maintains and controls the two state roads.

And after hearing out citizens, Mayor Mike Perros had some choice words for District 7, although other city staff say it’s time to take a breath, step back and review the issue methodically.

“I’m really frustrated by the whole situation. Clearly we have to do something. Only people I know that the state responds to is the public — they don’t respond too much to me or the judge(-executive),” Perros said.

He said he will advocate that “we have a public meeting” with District 7. “Those people need to hear what we heard tonight, 20 times. They need to understand how wrong this is.”

 

Nov. 19: Stop the ‘drag strip’

 

Magistrate Jason Cullen called on the fiscal court to review and update its ethics ordinance. Cullen, who runs the Hub Coffee House at Third and Main streets in downtown Danville, also said recent vehicle vs. pedestrian wrecks at that intersection are unacceptable and something must be done to improve safety.

Cullen said there are too many street lights out, and those that are burned out, including one in front of his business, often remain burned out for months.

And he said he thinks the timing of traffic lights along Third Street should also be modified so the lights at Martin Luther King, Walnut and Main aren’t green at the same time. “It becomes a drag strip,” he said.

 

Nov. 23: Letter calls for increased driver and pedestrian awareness

 

With regard to the traffic safety issues on Main Street, engineering can only do so much. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) reports that 90% of all traffic accidents are “due to driver-human error.” NHTSA also reports that 50-55% of all traffic accidents are due to “driver inattention.” If there is a significant area for reducing traffic accidents, it lies in reducing/preventing driver/human error. Yet I hear no request or suggestions about improving driver/pedestrian behavior.

… The greatest opportunity for preventing these collisions happens only when drivers and pedestrians become more attentive and develop a greater awareness of the entire traffic environment.

 

Jerry Leber

Danville

 

Dec. 4: CUPIDD aims to create change

 

Citizens United for Pedestrian-safety In Downtown Danville, or CUPIDD for short, is a group of local citizens who want to work with state and local governments to improve downtown pedestrian safety.

The group was started a couple of weeks ago by a concerned downtown business owner, Mary Robin Spoonamore, after years of accidents involving pedestrians, including a recent fatality at the intersection of Main and Third streets.

“We are at a crisis point, a point where our suggestions for change in traffic structure must be considered and change must be made, or else we can expect more horrific tragedies,” Spoonamore said in an email.

 

Dec. 12: Citizens ask for lighting improvements

 

Two members of CUPIDD presented their ideas to the commission. Spoonamore said the group has done research and wanted to present findings on three major ways “we’re looking at to improve pedestrians’ safety.”

Spoonamore said those three things are: instituting traffic-calming measures; having a police presence on Main Street; and instituting better lighting.

She said members of the group walked Main Street, numbering each light “so we could refer to that light’s issues.”

Spoonamore introduced Lori Finke as a Danville native and architectural lighting professional with clients across the country, to go through the rest of the findings and offer some recommendations.

Finke said she was not getting paid for her work — “it’s just something I want to do to help.” She said in their research, “mainly we’re focusing on between Second and Fourth,” because streetscape projects have already improved lighting to the east and west of that stretch.

 

Dec. 13: Danville moves ahead with streetscape design

 

Danville City Commission approved a plan Friday to speed along progress toward a “streetscape” project for Main Street between Second and Fourth streets.

Municipal Utilities Engineer Earl Coffey said there’s usually an 18- to 36-month process for a streetscape project like the one Danville hopes to complete for the stretch of Main Street in question, which has been criticized by many for poor light and safety features.

“It ultimately reduces the time to implement the project,” he said. “I think it’s become apparent that we need to take some action to that end … this begins the process immediately.”