LIMA — If all goes according to plan, portions of Spring and Elm streets downtown will convert to two-way traffic and some shared bike lanes by Labor Day, a city official said this morning.
Howard Elstro, Lima’s director of public works, said Elm Street between McDonel Street and Central Avenue and Spring Street from Jameson Avenue to Central Avenue is slated to open with the new configuration Sept. 3. The Spring Street segment will feature shared bike lanes that will be occupied by vehicles and cyclists, he said.
“Motorists will notice a change in signage as well as street markings,” Elstro said. “They should be on their guard the first part of September for that change in traffic patterns.”
The new lanes on Spring Street will be wider to help accomodate both vehicle and bicycle traffic, Elstro said.
“They are designed specifically to accommodate both modes of traffic,” he said. “The conversion of these streets is aimed at reducing congestion as well as improving air quality.”
The projects carry a price tag of more than $1.3 million with 80 percent of the cost covered by state and federal grants, Elstro said. Planning on the project began four to five years ago but is a nice complement to a healthy communities initiative which has gained momentum in the community this year, he said.
“What has recently emerged both nationally and significantly there’s been local interest is about the healthy communities aspect and how our transportation system impacts our own personal health,” Elstro said. “These projects certainly dovetail with those interests presented by healthy communities.”
The city set out more than two decades ago to create a bike path for recreational use, Elstro said. The realization has been made, however, that the combination of high gas prices and people’s lack of access to motor vehicles has necessitated expanding access to cyclists, he said.
“A recent statistic that was brought up at the traffic commission indicates that 15 percent of our community does not have access to motor vehicles,” Elstro said. “What that means is that a significant portion of our community is dependent as they carry out the daily tasks of their lives, whether it be traveling to school, to the store, to work or to entertainment centers, they get their either by walking, by cycling or by mass transit, buses.
“It’s important for us as community planners not to forget this segment of our community. As we design future projects we will continue to balance the needs of motorists, cyclists, pedestrians to best serve our community.”