As we wrap up the complete demonstration in downtown, it is important to respond to the complaints and questions received about what is going on downtown. The cones and barricades can be confusing and uncomfortable for people, but we have gathered some valuable input during this exercise that will be evaluated and discussed ahead of pending road repairs. Complete Streets is a transportation policy and design approach that requires streets to be planned, designed, operated and maintained to enable safe, convenient and comfortable travel and access for users of all ages and abilities regardless of their mode of transportation. They include accessible sidewalks, well maintain pedestrian crossing opportunities and dedicated space for all users of the street. Bicycles and pedestrians are present on all roads to some extent, so it is important that we keep that in mind as we work through our road plan for the city. These users include not only children, elderly, and those with mobility challenges, but also health-minded members of our communities and those on low or fixed income. Keeping all users in mind as we plan the future of Abbeville is essential to improving the quality of life for residents. Active transportation, such as walking and bicycling, are a key component of combating obesity and chronic diseases. Creating opportunities for walking and biking has also been shown to improve economic conditions for local businesses and can also increase property values in communities with connected pathways.
Last year I attended the Walkability Action Institute, put on by the National Association of Chronic Disease Directors with funding and support from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s Division of Physical Activity, Nutrition, and Obesity, where they quoted a very sobering statistic in that this generation is the first generation that is not expected to outlive their parents due to chronic disease. I do not have children, but I have many family members and friends that I love very much. I think it is important to use every project as an opportunity to improve community health. Improving the surfaces of roads is a top priority, and we have set a plan in place to begin funding these projects, but every time we talk about a road or a drainage system, we should think creatively on how we can also build a system to move people, not just vehicles, water or sewer.
I realize not everyone can see the vision through the orange cones and barricades, so I asked Alex Hobdy, with the Center for Planning Excellence, to provide a few renderings of what the built environment could be like if concepts are implemented. This is only a concept, but I hope this helps everyone understand the potential of what a project like this can do to improve our community and bring our downtown back to what it should be, a place for people first. Change, especially in a small city, can be quite challenging, but it is also inevitable. We have an opportunity to set a higher standard for what we want for the future of Abbeville. Demonstrations like this test our patience, and force us to look at things from a different perspective. They make us uncomfortable because they are meant to invoke conversations that make us think about our priorities.
𝐐𝟏: 𝐖𝐡𝐚𝐭 𝐰𝐚𝐬 𝐭𝐡𝐞 𝐩𝐮𝐫𝐩𝐨𝐬𝐞 𝐨𝐟 𝐭𝐡𝐞 𝐝𝐞𝐦𝐨𝐧𝐬𝐭𝐫𝐚𝐭𝐢𝐨𝐧?
To test how adjustments to road design can be used to calm traffic, and improve safety for all users. This demonstration allowed us to observe how eliminating one travel lane into downtown and using four way stops instead of streetlights would affect traffic flow and speed. Prior to the “road diet” we measured the speed of vehicles heading south on State Street. This area was marked as a 35 MPH zone, but vehicles entered downtown at speeds up to 49 MPH. This area leading into downtown is residential. Enforcement can curve behavior, but so can road design. By reducing the road to one lane and keeping on street parking, vehicles are forced to reduce their speed as they approach downtown. The adjustments around the courthouse are to make it safer for people who use the courthouse daily by intentionally slowing traffic and making designated crossings for the people shorter and more visible which are proven ways to reduce the occurrence and severity of pedestrian related accidents.
𝐐𝟐: 𝐖𝐡𝐚𝐭 𝐝𝐨 𝐲𝐨𝐮 𝐚𝐢𝐦 𝐭𝐨 𝐚𝐜𝐡𝐢𝐞𝐯𝐞 𝐟𝐫𝐨𝐦 𝐭𝐡𝐢𝐬?
I hope to start a conversation about what is important to our community and what we want the future of our city to be like. To change how we think about infrastructure improvements and set a higher standard for future projects based on input from the people that live and work in Abbeville before we go to construction. For me, it is about improving the quality of life for the people who choose to live here. Until now, we did not have much of a say in how we want downtown to function because all of the roads leading into downtown were state highways. Their design and maintenance were controlled by people who do not live here. As of November, that is no longer the case. We finally have an opportunity to make changes that can improve the safety and health of our community, starting with our historic downtown which is the heart of Abbeville.
𝐐𝟑: 𝐖𝐡𝐚𝐭 𝐰𝐢𝐥𝐥 𝐛𝐞 𝐝𝐨𝐧𝐞 𝐰𝐢𝐭𝐡 𝐭𝐡𝐞 𝐢𝐧𝐟𝐨𝐫𝐦𝐚𝐭𝐢𝐨𝐧 𝐜𝐨𝐥𝐥𝐞𝐜𝐭𝐞𝐝 𝐟𝐫𝐨𝐦 𝐭𝐡𝐞 𝐬𝐮𝐫𝐯𝐞𝐲?
It will be reviewed and discussed both internally and in public meetings prior to finalizing the plans for streets.
𝐐𝟒: 𝐀𝐫𝐞 𝐭𝐡𝐞𝐫𝐞 𝐚𝐧𝐲 𝐩𝐥𝐚𝐧𝐬 𝐟𝐨𝐫 𝐚 𝐟𝐞𝐞𝐝𝐛𝐚𝐜𝐤 𝐦𝐞𝐞𝐭𝐢𝐧𝐠 𝐭𝐨 𝐝𝐢𝐬𝐜𝐮𝐬𝐬 𝐭𝐡𝐞 𝐫𝐞𝐬𝐮𝐥𝐭𝐬 𝐚𝐧𝐝 𝐟𝐮𝐭𝐮𝐫𝐞 𝐩𝐥𝐚𝐧𝐬?
Yes. We are hosting a public meeting to discuss the current demonstration and gather additional feedback on Tuesday, January 30, 2024 beginning at 5:30 PM at the LSU AgCenter located at 1105 W Port Street, Abbeville, LA. I also give updates at every city council meeting. The minutes are available in the Meridional or online. We also have a YouTube channel. We are launching a broader community planning effort to identify and help prioritize additional community projects throughout the city. Those meetings will begin soon.
𝐐𝟓: 𝐇𝐨𝐰 𝐜𝐚𝐧 𝐫𝐞𝐬𝐢𝐝𝐞𝐧𝐭𝐬 𝐠𝐞𝐭 𝐢𝐧𝐯𝐨𝐥𝐯𝐞𝐝?
TRY the route, TRY the parking, get down and cross the street during a business day. Talk to people who work at the courthouse and the surrounding businesses. THEN answer the survey and attend meetings and give feedback.
𝐐𝟔: 𝐀𝐫𝐞 𝐭𝐡𝐞𝐫𝐞 𝐚𝐧𝐲 𝐩𝐥𝐚𝐧𝐬 𝐭𝐨 𝐫𝐞𝐩𝐚𝐢𝐫 𝐭𝐡𝐞 𝐫𝐨𝐚𝐝 𝐢𝐭𝐬𝐞𝐥𝐟?
Yes, we will be repairing the road during the first half of this year.
𝐐𝟕: 𝐂𝐚𝐧 𝐲𝐨𝐮 𝐜𝐥𝐚𝐫𝐢𝐟𝐲 𝐰𝐡𝐚𝐭 𝐦𝐨𝐧𝐞𝐲 𝐢𝐬 𝐛𝐞𝐢𝐧𝐠 𝐮𝐬𝐞𝐝 𝐟𝐨𝐫 𝐭𝐡𝐢𝐬 𝐩𝐫𝐨𝐣𝐞𝐜𝐭?
I have read some comments that say there is no such thing as free money. I agree 100%. I say this all the time, but we pay taxes to the State and Federal Government and anytime we have a chance to bring some of that back home, we should put in the effort.
For this demonstration, the city received a grant from Well-Ahead Louisiana, which is under the Louisiana Department of Health and Hospitals. Well-Ahead’s mission is to connect communities in Louisiana to tools and resources that can improve the health of residents where they live, work, learn, play and pray. LSU AgCenter also partnered with the city by providing paint, signs and other supplies to use for the demonstration. We are thankful for their partnership and support.
𝐐𝟖: 𝐖𝐢𝐥𝐥 𝐥𝐚𝐫𝐠𝐞 𝐭𝐫𝐮𝐜𝐤𝐬 𝐨𝐫 𝐭𝐫𝐮𝐜𝐤𝐬 𝐰𝐢𝐭𝐡 𝐭𝐫𝐚𝐢𝐥𝐞𝐫𝐬 𝐟𝐚𝐜𝐞 𝐜𝐡𝐚𝐥𝐥𝐞𝐧𝐠𝐞𝐬 𝐰𝐢𝐭𝐡 𝐭𝐡𝐞 𝐫𝐞𝐝𝐞𝐬𝐢𝐠𝐧? 𝐇𝐨𝐰 𝐰𝐢𝐥𝐥 𝐭𝐡𝐢𝐬 𝐛𝐞 𝐦𝐚𝐧𝐚𝐠𝐞𝐝?
Yes, they will. I recognize that downtown businesses need access for trucks and we will make sure businesses in downtown are accessible for local deliveries. Any business that is having accessibility issues can call my cell or office at 337-898-4206 and we will work with them before making any permanent changes. However, oversized tractor-trailers should not use downtown as a drive-through. The roads in downtown are no longer state highways, which means they are local streets. Oversized and overweight trucks should not use them to cross the city, they should use Highway 14 bypass. There are signs and message boards out to make drivers aware of this during this transitional period. We are using this time to educate drivers prior to implementing any penalty, however reducing the number of large trucks passing through downtown is one goal of the project.
𝐐𝟗: 𝐖𝐡𝐲 𝐫𝐞𝐚𝐫 𝐚𝐧𝐠𝐥𝐞 𝐩𝐚𝐫𝐤𝐢𝐧𝐠? 𝐖𝐡𝐲 𝐧𝐨𝐭 𝐚𝐧𝐠𝐥𝐞 𝐩𝐚𝐫𝐤𝐢𝐧𝐠 𝐛𝐮𝐭 𝐟𝐨𝐫𝐰𝐚𝐫𝐝?
We held a public meeting on November 15, 2023 and presented two designs around the courthouse, one with parallel parking and one with rear entry angle parking. The angle parking received the most votes, so we utilized this configuration for the demonstration. The goal of this demonstration was to look at ways to make the courthouse safe for people who need to access it. One of the big complaints we have heard during the demonstration, mostly from people who have not tried it, is that backing up in a roadway is dangerous. While this can sometimes be true, all parking on a roadway requires some sort of reverse maneuver in the roadway. Angled parking requires less maneuvers than parallel parking and allows for more spots adjacent to the Courthouse. Front angle is more convenient for drivers to park quickly, but still requires you to back into the roadway when exiting. The safety concept of “First Move Forward” means that you should park in such a way that when you return to your vehicle, your next move is driving forward. Reverse Angle parking allows drivers to have a full view of oncoming cars and pedestrians when pulling onto the roadway making everyone safer.
𝐐𝟏𝟎: 𝐇𝐨𝐰 𝐰𝐢𝐥𝐥 𝐛𝐮𝐬𝐢𝐧𝐞𝐬𝐬𝐞𝐬 𝐭𝐡𝐚𝐭 𝐚𝐫𝐞 𝐥𝐨𝐜𝐚𝐭𝐞𝐝 𝐨𝐧 𝐒𝐭𝐚𝐭𝐞 𝐒𝐭𝐫𝐞𝐞𝐭 𝐜𝐨𝐩𝐞 𝐰𝐢𝐭𝐡 𝐢𝐬𝐬𝐮𝐞𝐬 𝐫𝐞𝐥𝐚𝐭𝐞𝐝 𝐭𝐨 𝐭𝐡𝐞 𝐫𝐨𝐚𝐝 𝐜𝐡𝐚𝐧𝐠𝐞𝐬, 𝐬𝐮𝐜𝐡 𝐚𝐬 𝐯𝐞𝐧𝐝𝐨𝐫𝐬’ 𝐚𝐜𝐜𝐞𝐬𝐬 𝐨𝐫 𝐩𝐚𝐫𝐤𝐢𝐧𝐠 𝐝𝐢𝐟𝐟𝐢𝐜𝐮𝐥𝐭𝐢𝐞𝐬?
Any business having accessibility issues can call my cell or my office and we will work with them before making any permanent changes. Increasing walkability is proven to increase foot traffic for businesses. Change takes adjustments, but this project is proposed to help our small businesses be more successful.
𝐐𝟏𝟏: 𝐂𝐚𝐧 𝐲𝐨𝐮 𝐞𝐱𝐩𝐥𝐚𝐢𝐧 𝐭𝐡𝐞 𝐢𝐦𝐩𝐥𝐢𝐜𝐚𝐭𝐢𝐨𝐧𝐬 𝐨𝐟 𝐭𝐡𝐞 𝐫𝐞𝐦𝐨𝐯𝐚𝐥 𝐨𝐟 𝐭𝐡𝐞 𝐬𝐞𝐜𝐨𝐧𝐝 𝐥𝐚𝐧𝐞?
Reducing the number of lanes between the bypass and the courthouse will require vehicles to slow down when entering downtown, helping to make the community safer. The use of the extra lane as dedicated space for biking is a proposed alternative use of the additional space and still allows for on street parking.
𝐐𝟏𝟐:𝐀𝐫𝐞 𝐭𝐡𝐞𝐫𝐞 𝐚𝐧𝐲 𝐩𝐥𝐚𝐧𝐬 𝐭𝐨 𝐝𝐨 𝐚 𝐝𝐞𝐦𝐨𝐧𝐬𝐭𝐫𝐚𝐭𝐢𝐨𝐧 𝐢𝐧 𝐨𝐭𝐡𝐞𝐫 𝐚𝐫𝐞𝐚𝐬 𝐨𝐟 𝐭𝐡𝐞 𝐜𝐨𝐦𝐦𝐮𝐧𝐢𝐭𝐲?
We chose to begin in downtown because it is an area used by everyone and road work is funded for 2024. We want to begin making safety improvements as we repair the streets. While no other location is currently scheduled, the goal is to build safe connected routes to all public places in our community. We will do demonstrations in other areas as we plan additional road improvements. The next areas of focus will be near schools and parks.
𝐐𝟏𝟑: 𝐇𝐨𝐰 𝐦𝐚𝐧𝐲 𝐩𝐞𝐨𝐩𝐥𝐞 𝐡𝐚𝐯𝐞 𝐛𝐞𝐞𝐧 𝐡𝐢𝐭 𝐛𝐲 𝐜𝐚𝐫𝐬 𝐜𝐫𝐨𝐬𝐬𝐢𝐧𝐠 𝐭𝐡𝐞 𝐜𝐢𝐫𝐜𝐥𝐞 𝐢𝐧 𝐭𝐨𝐰𝐧, 𝐢𝐧 𝐭𝐡𝐞 𝐩𝐚𝐬𝐭 𝟏𝟎 𝐲𝐫𝐬? 𝐖𝐡𝐲 𝐬𝐨 𝐦𝐚𝐧𝐲 𝐜𝐫𝐨𝐬𝐬𝐰𝐚𝐥𝐤𝐬?
On a normal business day, the courthouse is the building most utilized in downtown. Most of the people who work at the courthouse cannot park adjacent to the building and are required to cross the street to go to work. When court is in session, there is additional foot traffic. In the past 10 years, there have been 11 pedestrian crashes in downtown, 3 in the immediate vicinity of the courthouse. Abbeville is one of the top 2 pedestrian target analysis areas in the Acadiana Region due to the high number of pedestrian related accidents. We are working with state and federal agencies to identify funds that can be used to incorporate safety into future road projects. Public input, demonstrations and policy will make applications more competitive.
𝐐𝟏𝟒: 𝐈𝐬 𝐭𝐡𝐞𝐫𝐞 𝐫𝐞𝐚𝐥𝐥𝐲 𝐚 𝐧𝐞𝐞𝐝 𝐟𝐨𝐫 𝐚 𝐛𝐢𝐤𝐞 𝐥𝐚𝐧𝐞?
The percentage of households in Abbeville without a vehicle is 21%, with 12.3% of residents reportedly walking or biking to work. As the cost of housing, insurance and vehicles continue to increase, those numbers will continue to rise. Having infrastructure that allows for safe comfortable walking and biking can mean a huge savings to families who live, work and go to school here. Abbeville is in the top 50 cities in Louisiana for bicycle crashes. We should look to incorporate safe access for walking and biking throughout the city. Building a safe, connected system for non-motorized modes of travel increases the quality of life for all residents and will lead to a healthier community.
𝟏𝟓: 𝐓𝐡𝐞 𝐜𝐨𝐮𝐫𝐭𝐡𝐨𝐮𝐬𝐞 𝐢𝐬 𝐚 𝐫𝐨𝐮𝐧𝐝𝐚𝐛𝐨𝐮𝐭 𝐚𝐧𝐝 𝐭𝐫𝐚𝐟𝐟𝐢𝐜 𝐬𝐡𝐨𝐮𝐥𝐝 𝐦𝐨𝐯𝐞 𝐮𝐧𝐢𝐦𝐩𝐞𝐝𝐞𝐝.
As previously stated, this demonstration was designed with the safety of people in mind. The roads around the courthouse currently allow for larger vehicles to pass through town without impediments. This means large corner radii that allow wider turns at higher speeds. Speed matters, and it particularly matters at intersections where vehicles and pedestrians interact. Sharper corners have small or tight corner radii. These corners require drivers to slow down, be more aware, and take a turn safely which reduce the likelihood of severe injury or fatalities in pedestrian involved crashes. Expanding the curb on the west side of the courthouse allows for a better-defined flow of traffic around the courthouse and will reduce the number of wrong way drivers, which was a weekly occurrence prior to this demonstration. It also allows for more time to safely access parking. Downtown is not meant to be a drive-through and should not be designed as such. We have a bypass that allows for vehicles to cross town quickly at a higher speed, especially large vehicles.