Turn Lanes on Curtis: An Update

Previously, I told you about the proposed plan to add left turn signals and left turn lanes at Curtis and Main.   This proposal is one we’ve been discussing as a Council since May (and one the city has gone back and forth on for years). While that proposal received support of Council in previous meetings, last night, when it came time to discuss and vote, Council voted 5-1 to table further discussion and the vote.  I voted no to the motion to table, and Ms. Kelley was absent. 

I also previously told you that the addition of the turn lanes would result in the loss of on-street parking on Curtis St., but that I believe that loss is outweighed by the benefits of improved traffic flow.

Prior to the motion to table, several downtown business owners spoke in opposition to the proposal, arguing the impact of the lost on-street parking would be too great a burden for them to bear.  Prior to the meeting, they sent all Councilmembers a letter detailing their objections and offering two alternative solutions (copied verbatim here):

1. Change the traffic signal on Main for west bound E. Curtis so that left turns, straight forward, and right turning traffic all go at the same time.  That means all other traffic is stopped. Signal changes: all west bound E. Curtis traffic stops. All other traffic proceeds.

2. Make E. Curtis from Hedge Street to Main Street ONE WAY ONLY for west bound traffic.  That allows two lanes for faster traffic flow. East bound traffic uses alternate routes eg. Trade, Crisp, and College Streets.

Both of these alternatives have been discussed with SCDOT and have been rejected as unviable solutions. As regards the 2nd option, there is already too much traffic on those other streets to push all of the E. Curtis traffic onto those arteries as well. The traffic engineers and city staff still believe the only viable option is the left turn signals.  DOT will not approve the signals without the addition of “left turn storage,” meaning the turning lanes.

While I still believe that the left turn signals and required left turn lanes are necessary to improve traffic flow through downtown, I appreciate the business owners who have shared their insights into the further impact on their businesses.  For example, the owners of the Front Porch (located on E. Curtis) told us how the loss of on-street parking will make it impossible to load some of the furniture they sell into customer cars.  The owner of Upper Cuts on E. Curtis also explained that she will have difficulty with loading/unloading, since her store has no back door. Mr. Van Caldwell also expressed concerns that 18-wheelers won’t be able to make the left-turns from the turn lanes onto Main without creating sidewalk damage or safety issues for pedestrians.

All of these are valid concerns, and they deserve to be heard and addressed. While these and other concerns have merit, I continue to support the addition of the turn lanes and signals because I believe that the improved traffic flow is what is best for the City of Simpsonville.  For years, I have heard and experienced the frustration with traffic at that intersection caused by people making left turns.  Residents of Ward 3 and of Poinsettia have often complained about how the traffic jams then divert traffic into their residential neighborhoods, creating a host of problems.  I also believe that improved traffic flow has benefits for downtown businesses because people are more likely to visit downtown if they don’t have to fight traffic that backs up from Main all the way past City Park on E. Curtis.  I also believe that the potential Verdin property purchase will alleviate some parking concerns, and that we can use under-utilized resources, like the public parking at City Hall, to help with parking problems.  In addition, some of us have discussed solutions like creating 2-hour parking zones or finding a way to create loading/unloading zones.  These conversations did not occur at last night’s meeting because the motion to table cut conversation short.  But they are conversations different business owners, Councilmembers, and city staff have been having in between meetings, and I expect these discussions will continue.

With that said, I still fully support the left-turn lanes and signals, and I also look forward to continued discussion on options to mitigate the negative impact on the Curtis St. businesses.

If you also support turn signals and lanes at the intersection, I would encourage you to contact your other Councilmembers.