Residents divided on road diet

People who live and work in Ashland are divided on whether the North Main Street road diet has created travel headaches or improved life for drivers, bicyclists and pedestrians.

North Main Street was re-striped in October 2012 where it enters northwest Ashland. Four car travel lanes were reduced to two travel lanes with a center turn lane, creating room on the sides of the road for bike lanes in each direction.

In November, the Ashland City Council will consider whether to keep the new configuration or have the road striped again to take it back to its former layout.

Joyce Jarvis, who lives along North Main Street near the intersection of Maple Street, said long lines of cars are backing up near her house as drivers wait to turn up Maple Street to reach Asante Ashland Community Hospital.

That makes it difficult for her to enter and exit her driveway, she said.

"Every time I come out here, I'm afraid," Jarvis said.

Preliminary traffic data show that cars are backing up more at the Maple Street intersection, and three crashes have been reported there since the road diet started.

In the city of Ashland's online Open City Hall community forum, many residents have reported more difficulty turning on and off Main Street from side streets since the road diet started.

Some said they now go more often to the Maple Street intersection, because it has a traffic signal that will give them an opportunity to make turns.

Talent resident Tina Tilley, who was visiting a medical office near the Maple Street intersection, said she can no longer turn left onto Main Street to go back to Talent. A sign in the medical office parking lot bans left turns.

"It irritates me to have to turn right to come out of here. It's more of a hazard," Tilley said.

Higher up Maple Street, Jacksonville resident Ron La Tour was building a masonry wall.

La Tour, who frequently drives into Ashland for masonry projects, said traffic is moving more slowly on North Main Street and he prefers the past configuration of the road.

Dan Lawrence, who lives along Maple Street, said he has mixed views on the road diet.

"I am glad there's a bike lane, no doubt. I immediately saw people using it. I have a bike and I ride it into town. That gives me a sense of security," said Lawrence, adding that he would like the bike lanes to extend even farther into downtown Ashland.

However, Lawrence said, it's now more difficult to turn on and off North Main Street, and he sometimes sees cars backed up for 200 yards during peak traffic hours.

People are stuck in traffic more often, leading to more air pollution, he said.

Lawrence said the road diet has improved safety for bicyclists, but at a cost to drivers, and there are more drivers than cyclists using the road.

"I appreciate that cyclists have a safe place. I wish I had the solution to balance both," he said, noting that he doesn't envy City Council's difficult job of deciding whether to keep the road diet in place.

Scott Calamar, who lives on Wimer Street off North Main Street, said drivers have to travel single-file and no longer have passing lanes.

Cars sometimes back up at traffic lights and don't make it through intersections before lights turn red, he said.

Also, vehicles sometimes have to veer around Rogue Valley Transportation District buses, which partially intrude into the road when stopped to pick up passengers, he said.

Calamar said people need to be aware that City Council will make a decision soon about the road diet's future.

"Speak now, or forever hold your peace," he said.

On the city's Open City Hall online forum, reactions to the road diet are wide-ranging.

Many people have said driving North Main Street is now easier and smoother, without people changing lanes and jockeying for position.

"I was one of those changing lanes, trying to make it around the slow car," one person wrote. "I was wary when the road diet started. Now I'm a fan. The flow of traffic is more organized and appropriate for within a city."

The new center turn lane also has alleviated many drivers' fears that they will be rear-ended while waiting to turn off North Main Street onto side streets.

Preliminary traffic data shows that vehicle speeds are slightly down, although the time it takes to travel through the road diet segment remains virtually unchanged.

Some drivers attributed that to a slightly slower but smoother traffic flow, based on Open City Hall comments.

Many people commenting online said they had more trouble turning on and off side streets, with one saying waits to get onto North Main Street could be as long as two minutes.

Bikers commenting said they appreciated the new bike lanes, but some drivers said cyclists don't need the bike lanes and should use the Bear Creek Greenway pedestrian and bicycle path.

The city plans to get more input from a survey of 1,000 residents and 50 businesses to be conducted by the Southern Oregon University Research Center at a cost to the city of $13,865.

The road diet itself cost $187,500, most of which was covered by the Oregon Department of Transportation.

An ongoing study of road diet impacts by a traffic engineering firm is costing the city $17,000.

To comment on the road diet and read what others have to say via Open City Hall, see

Staff reporter Vickie Aldous can be reached at 541-479-8199 or

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