Sherman Minton Refusal: The two-way street grid stays as it is, jack, and if we’re smart we’ll double down on walkability.

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In about a year and a half, the city will face a very big challenge over a period of up to four years. The Sherman Minton Bridge repair regimen will be terribly disruptive, to say the least.

The saddest part of all this is the timing.

At precisely the point when we should be talking about improving Jeff Gahan’s lacklustre, lowest-common-denominator approach to making New Albany’s densest urban areas more walkable and bikeable, by sensibly slowing traffic and incrementally curbing the automobile imperialism that reigns hereabouts, instead we’re about to spend the next five years talking about nothing except cars and the “right” of drivers to impose their wills on the cosmos.

Well, no. Not exactly. Already I’ve heard hints from the car-centric to the effect that the only way to cope with the coming disruptions is to “temporarily” re-revert downtown streets to one-way traffic — you know, so drivers and get from one end of town to the other more quickly.

Nope.

Principled community leaders (and candidates in this fall’s election) need to state cleatly that Gahan’s street-grid baby steps — while too laughably timid by half — aren’t negotiable. Furthermore, as yet stillborn efforts to slow traffic and make the historic city center safe for all users, not just the ones jangling their car keys, need to be revived, implemented and ratcheted up.

Sherman Minton Insanity does not change one important, fundamental fact, because the object remains to better utilize the potential of the city’s density by making it a place people want to live, work and play, and not merely drive through.

Yes, outsiders need to be able to get to us. However, residents also need to “get it,” and to understand that surrendering to the tyranny of the pass-through motorist constitutes failure, not success.

For the sake of the internal combustion engine, as utilizing an interstate highway bridge already over-used owing to toll evasion, New Albany might well become road kill.

Last evening I was called to task for saying unkind things on the interwebz about INDOT, but the fact of the matter is that INDOT exists to serve the interests of the Sherman Minton as a high-speed, pass-through component of a larger car-centric transportation grid. INDOT cares little about collateral damage in New Albany, a city standing to benefit mightily from low-speed, stay-a-while use.

Happily, much of what has come out of last evening’s meeting indicates a shared determination for New Albany businesses to unify and begin (at long last) thinking collectively about the need to “sell” the outside world on New Albany. We’re facing a potentially existential threat, and unity is the best way to prepare for it.

It would be nice to hear City Hall’s take on this matter — BEFORE the election.

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