Two separate blocks on Kirkwood Avenue to be closed through week until end of year, weekends-only for one block

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Still in place on Monday afternoon were the yellow bollards that public works crews installed before the weekend, to close off parts of Kirkwood Avenue in downtown Bloomington.

That’s not due to any slacking by Bloomington public works. They have been setting up and removing the Kirkwood bollards every weekend since mid-June.

But from now until the end of the year, there will be no need to remove the bollards for some parts of the street.

According to a press release from the city of Bloomington issued Friday afternoon, from now until the end of the year,  two one-block segments will be closed through the week, and one additional segment will be closed just on weekends.

The closures, which started just on weekends in mid-June, are meant to allow restaurants to seat more people outside, distanced from each other, in an atmosphere where patrons might feel safer from the spread of the COVID-19 pandemic virus.

Until Dec. 31, the separate blocks from Walnut to Washington Street, and from Grant to Dunn Street will stay closed to vehicle traffic through the week. The block from Indiana Avenue to Dunn Street will be closed on weekends only.

The tweak to the plan, which entails weekend-only closure for one block, wasn’t settled by the time mayor John Hamilton gave a general description of the closures at a Friday afternoon press conference.

According to Mary Catherine Carmichael, Bloomington’s director of public engagement, members of the Kirkwood Community Association, the group of merchants in the area, were still discussing their preferences for street closings at the time of the press conference.

Responding to a question about access to the closed-off blocks to the disability community, Hamilton said at the press conference that all the north-south streets will stay open, and the alley access will remain. That’s because it is important to try to make sure both emergency vehicles and people with disabilities have access, Hamilton said.

Hamilton said that in the course of the crosswalk and pavement replacements that were made to Kirkwood this spring, all the ADA ramps were kept in place. The bollard system that is being used to close off the street to vehicle traffic was installed as a part of those renovations.

Responding to a question from The Square Beacon, director of public works Adam Wason confirmed that the existing ADA ramps at crosswalks and alleys were all replaced as a part of the project and brought up to current standards. But no new ramps were added, he said.

Handicapped parking spaces on north-south streets were also not added in connection with the renovation project, Wason said. He added, “We’re looking to identify more spots that we can convert to ADA on the north-south streets during the closures.”

At the press conference, Hamilton said, “If there are any problems…either from a retailer, or an institution, or an individual, please reach out to my office or to the downtown merchants. And we’ll certainly try to figure out if there’s anything else we can be doing.”

Hamilton also thanked Indiana University for agreeing to make some of its parking areas in the Kirkwood vicinity available for free parking after 5 p.m. He mentioned the lots between Kirkwood and 6th Street and Indiana and Dunn, as well as the  Poplars garage.

One of the benefits of the Kirkwood renovations is a reduction in ponding at intersections during heavy rains. Asked if increasing the size of stormwater inlets was a part of that strategy, Wason said that stormwater was not in the scope of the project: “When the opportunity to complete a full pavement maintenance project like this presents itself, the roadway engineers and designers pay specific attention to the crown and pitch of the road in the plan sets to have the greatest impact on stormwater management without making major infrastructure investments such as additional inlets and piping.”

But in the case of one inlet at Kirkwood and Washington, when the excavation was being done for the Kirkwood project, the stormwater intake was found to be structurally failing, Wason said. So the city of Bloomington utilities (CBU) installed a new one, which has a bigger inlet.

The summer weekend closures to parts of Kirkwood were made possible through action by the city council to relax certain code requirements through Sept. 30, and a parallel resolution approved by the board of public works.

When the extension through the end of the year was requested by the administration from the city council at its Sept. 23 meeting, special projects manager Kaisa Goodman said, “We will continue working with our community partner, the Kirkwood Community Association, to make specific determinations of which weekends it is feasible weather-wise to close certain blocks of Kirkwood.”

Neither the initial ordinance approved by the city council nor the extension that the city council approved on Sept. 23 mentions weekends explicitly.

The resolution approved by the board of public works through Sept. 30 is specific about closures just on weekends:

Staff at the Planning and Transportation Department are authorized to receive and give final approval to an application submitted by the Kirkwood Community Association or other Kirkwood merchants for additional seating and/or merchandising encroachments during the weekend of June 19 through June 21, 2020, and for subsequent weekends through September 30, 2020, provided that the submitted application(s) meets all requirements as modified by this Resolution and by anticipated City Council Ordinance 20-11. No additional approval from this Board shall be required.

The board of public works has not yet taken any action to extend and alter its previous resolution. According to Wason, an updated resolution will be put in front of the board of public works at its Oct. 27 meeting.

How are the street closures through the week being authorized, absent any action by the board of public works? Wason said the city is using a provision in the city code that allows for temporary traffic orders to be made for up 180 days. [15.08.040]

“The desire to be nimble in our actions for our downtown businesses owners in these difficult times led us to taking this route of approval and not waiting an additional week for the board of public works meeting,” Wason said.

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