ABMB's Laurence Lambert participated in this event and is quoted in this article. Laurence, and the ABMB Traffic Team, have studied improvements for Government at several levels over the years...
A “professional pedestrian” invited to Baton Rouge to survey Government Street said Thursday that the city should consider roundabouts for several of the busy corridor’s intersections and possibly reducing it from four lanes to two traffic lanes and a center turn lane.
Dan Burden, executive director of the Walkable and Livable Communities Institute, told planners and traffic engineers participating in a walking tour that cities need to make changes to high-speed, pedestrian-unfriendly streets like Government to create “villages” in which businesses and surrounding neighborhoods can thrive.
Roundabouts, he said, are safer than traffic signals because the circular intersections slow down traffic and give everyone more time to react. They accommodate 30 percent more traffic and reduce personal injuries by 90 percent, he said.
Laurence Lambert, of ABMB Engineers Inc., noted the tendency of cars to quickly switch lanes to get around those that have stopped to make left turns.
“It feels like a slalom course driving down Government Street,” he said. “It’s a tough road to drive.”
Standing at the entrance to the Vieux Carre Condominiums, Burden pointed to a banner advertising the comforts of the development, all of them within the property’s boundaries.
“This is a great place to live if you stay inside your condo,” he said of the banner’s implicit message.
Burden’s organization is based in Washington, but he said he only spends about 10 days a year at home. The rest of the time he is traveling, consulting and surveying communities that are trying to move from automobile-centric streets to “complete streets” that accommodate pedestrians, bicycles and transit as well.
Standing at the new intersection at Government Street and South Foster Drive, Burden said he counted 24 things wrong with it, though that may not be as bad as it sounds. He said anything under 10 and you’re doing it right. He said his favorite intersection in America — at Connecticut and K streets in Washington, D.C. — has eight things wrong with it.
The “walk” signal for pedestrians at Government and South Foster, for example, doesn’t light up automatically, and studies have shown almost half of people crossing a street won’t push a button to activate the signal. There are driveways too close to the intersection and no medians to serve as safe havens for pedestrians who only get halfway across.
What the new intersection has done right is the so-called pork chop island — named for how it looks from above — that lets pedestrians get across the right turn lane for traffic and arrive safely on another median before crossing the main lanes.
Also, the traffic lights are on mast arms, no longer on wires strung diagonally over the intersections, which would put the motorists’ gaze in the wrong place. A nice addition, Burden said, would be lights on poles on the right side of the road, which makes drivers look where pedestrians are going to be.
The group watched as a woman wearing a T-shirt bearing the name and number of New Orleans Saints receiver Marques Colston tried to cross Government near Mouton Street.
“She’s going to have to wait a long time,” Burden said, noting that without a median, she needs to wait for all four lanes to be clear at once, or as close to four as she can get. “It’s still a risky thing to be doing, and she’s doing it.”
The group noted that between the street and the sidewalk stood not one, but two utility poles sticking out of the ground, with only the newer one actually connected to the power lines.
“You want the motorists to hit two items instead of just one,” Burden joked.
Standing near the parking lot of Albertson’s, Burden pointed out the handful of trees in the parking lot weren’t really making much of a difference. He pointed out that the city sets the rules for developers to follow, and can always insist on a higher standard.
“Who’s to blame for the fact that there wasn’t enough space for them to thrive?” he asked.
Burden said Davis, Calif., requires 15 percent of the total area of a similar site — including the footprint of the building — to be set aside for trees.
Paul Waidhas, an urban planner who came in from New Orleans, said he’s driven along Government Street many times but had never engaged it as a pedestrian.
“It’s a completely different perspective,” he said.