Vehicles, Bicycles, Pedestrians Compete For Safe Space on Northwestern Avenue

Feb 27, 2017

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While West Lafayette and Purdue University are focused on rebuilding State Street, one resident is asking city leaders to look at that project’s impact on another major road – Northwestern Avenue.

Jim Klatch says the new perimeter parkway designed to carry traffic around the heart of campus will increase traffic on Northwestern, particularly on the north end of Purdue’s campus, between Stadium Avenue and Cherry Lane.

“If you encourage people to come through, they’re going to speed,” he says.

Klatch lives about one block east of Northwestern. He says the added traffic will exacerbate safety problems for drivers, pedestrians and bicyclists.

“There’s no room, so they have to ride on the sidewalks to be safe,” Klatch says. “And that has conflicts with the pedestrians. Plus, the pedestrians have recycling bins and yard waste and traffic coming in and out.”

Mayor John Dennis acknowledges the corridor needs to be reengineered, and he says slowing the traffic is part of the city’s long-term road plan.

But, he says, the perimeter parkway is specifically designed for drivers who want to avoid the one-way streets and congestion near campus.

“It will be a dumping area for some traffic, particularly for the ones that live on the north end,” Dennis says.  “But I can’t imagine it will be more constricting than it is right now.”

The challenge, he says, is to control the conflicts between vehicles and pedestrians in that section of Northwestern that serves the Purdue campus on the west, and the residential areas on the east.

Klatch asked the West Lafayette Redevelopment Commission to slow down the traffic by narrowing the four-lane road into one lane in each direction, and adding medians, dedicated turn lanes and bike lanes.

But, Dennis says adding medians may not be the answer because the Federal Highway Administration now requires bike lanes to be five feet wide. 

Because of that new rule, Dennis says the city is contemplating removing medians on Salisbury Street in order to provide adequate space for cyclists.