On Thursday, starting at 6 p.m. in city council chambers, some “starter ideas” for the redesign of College Avenue and Walnut Street—Bloomington’s main north-south corridor—will be presented by Toole Design, the city’s consultant on the project.
The “starter ideas” will be based on feedback from the public collected over the last few weeks, through in-person meetings and online surveys that have been advertised on the project webpage.
The initial collection of perspectives from the public culminated in a public meeting on Tuesday night.
At the conclusion of the meeting, the team from Toole got reports from five tables where groups of attendees had spent a half hour poring over a table-sized aerial print of the corridor stretching from the 45/46 bypass southward to Allen Street. Allen Street is south of the place where College and Walnut merge into a single street—it’s a bit north of Switchyard Park.
The groups were asked to consider three questions:
- What do you like and want to see retained?
- What do you dislike and want to see changed?
- What is missing that you would like to see created?
The existing conditions in the corridor were described at the start of Tuesday’s meeting by Cindy Zerger, Toole Design’s urban design director, based in California.
A highlight from Zerger’s slide deck was the average number of traffic crashes in the corridor each year. Zerger said each year the corridor logs about 150 crashes. Excessive speed was a factor in many of the crashes, and many of them occurred at recurring locations, Zerger said.
Zerger presented a summary for five years of crash data, from 2018 through 2022—40 serious injury crashes and 4 fatal crashes.
Here’s Zerger’s breakdown of the 40 serious-injury crashes,
12 people walking
1 person riding a bike
1 person riding a scooter
24 people driving a car
1 person driving a motorcycle
Here’s the breakdown of the 4 fatal crashes:
1 person walking
1 person riding a scooter
2 people driving a car
The corridor is up for further study because it is recommended in the city’s 2019 transportation plan to get a closer look.
Toole Design’s $170,000 contract for the corridor study was approved by Bloomington’s board of public works in October last year.
Here are some highlights from Thursday’s group table reports.
What do you like and want to see retained?
- Abundance, diversity of small businesses, grocery stores, and shops
- One-way pairs mean it’s easier to maneuver around delivery trucks
- One-way pairs mean you only have to look one way to cross as a pedestrian
- Historic character of older buildings
- Availability of green spaces and some seating, such as Miller-Showers Park
- Main thoroughfares handle heavy traffic efficiently
- Effective handling of delivery systems and student movement
- Locations of loading zones
- Bump outs with planters and outdoor dining areas
- Availability of street parking, especially for safety reasons at night.
What do you dislike and want to see changed?
- High-speed driving that reduces accessibility for pedestrians and cyclists
- Unsafe traffic conditions, including speeding and noise
- Speeding, running red lights, and noise from cars accelerating
- Concerns about safety while crossing the road, particularly for children
- Abandoned or underused land, especially south of 2nd Street
- Merging problems south of Kroger
- One-way pairs mean wrong-way driving, particularly during student turnover
- One-way pairs mean navigational difficulties, especially for bikes and pedestrians in a hurry
- Negative impact of the convention center “land bank deadzone”
- Lack of tree plots
- Narrow sidewalks hinder: bike parking and possibility outdoor seating
- Confusion and challenges of turning onto 7th Street with its protected bicycle lane
- Inefficient use of space due to angled parking
- Blocked lanes because of loading and unloading
What is missing that you would like to see created?
- Protected bike lanes and safer infrastructure for cyclists and pedestrians
- Dedicated and protected bike lanes
- Wider sidewalks and utilization of street corners for performance spaces
- Increased seating areas and more intentional aesthetics, particularly south of Seminary Park
- Incorporation of public art and more trees/greenery to improve the visual appeal and address noise and heat issues
- Implementation of additional speed control measures such as speed limit signs, speed bumps, and enforcement
- Introduction of elements to break up the monotony of long concrete stretches, including visual diversions and interactive features like art and benches
- Calming measures and integration of design changes for cross streets, including on Kirkwood Avenue and 6th Street
- Better utilization of Fountain Square Mall and interaction with the outdoor public realm
- More businesses between 10th and 17th streets
- Narrower roadway designs to address speeding concerns
- Implementation of scramble crossings to improve pedestrian safety and convenience
- Climate resilience considerations in designs, including the integration of trees and measures to address urban heat island effects, extreme precipitation, and flooding
- Increased bus frequency and/or dedicated bus lanes.
On Wednesday (June 14), Toole Design will host what it calls an “Open Studio” in city council chambers at city hall, from 9 a.m. to noon, and from 1 p.m. to 4 p.m. During those times, people can drop in and share their thoughts on the College-Walnut corridor.
Zerger said Thursday’s meeting (June 15), from 6 p.m. to 7:30 p.m in city council chambers will consist of a presentation of some “starter ideas” for designs that would incorporate the feedback that her team has collected. Background on the project, including a Zoom link for viewing Thursday’s meeting, is available on the project webpage.
At Thursday’s meeting, the public won’t break out into groups at separate tables, Zerger told The B Square. But the people who attend the meeting will be invited to respond to the starter ideas and critique them.
At the conclusion of Tuesday’s meeting, assistant director of planning and transportation Beth Rosenbarger invited the two dozen people who attended the meeting to come back on Thursday. She added, “When you come back on Thursday, please, as a challenge, bring three to five friends with you!”
Attending Tuesday’s meeting were four Bloomington city councilmembers—Kate Rosenbarger (Beth Rosenbarger’s sister), Matt Flaherty (husband of Beth Rosenbarger), Isabel Piedmont-Smith, and Sue Sgambelluri. Plan commissioner Jillian Kinzie also attended.
Next steps after Thursday’s meeting include meetings of a steering committee. Through May 4, residents were invited to apply for appointments to join that group.
A third public meeting is also supposed to be held.
A preferred concept design and assessment will be settled on and a final corridor study is expected by the end of the year.