Three to get ready
Washington residents have had a few weeks to drive on the newly paved West Madison Street. When it was repaved earlier this month, the street went from a four-lane road to a three-lane road. The people who use the road often agree that the change has slowed down traffic, although the residents have mixed feelings about whether the change has been for the better or the worse.
Beth Leppert lives in Richland, but uses West Madison Street a few times a week when she comes to town. She didn’t have an opinion on the conversion to a three-lane before it happened, but after driving on the road for a few weeks, she wants the three-lane back.
“Now if you get stuck behind somebody who’s going slowly, you’re stuck there until they turn off,” she said. “It’s harder to get through town.”
The four-lane road allowed vehicles to pass one another. The three-lane road does not since the middle lane is reserved for left-turning traffic.
Leppert said the new road surface is very nice and smooth. When asked if she observed other motorists using the middle lane properly, Leppert said that she hadn’t seen any problems with it.
Representatives of the Department of Transportation visited Washington in 2011 to suggest the city convert West Madison from four to three lanes. At the time, the DOT representatives said three lanes would be safer for left-turning traffic on West Madison because the traffic had a better line of sight to the oncoming vehicles. Leppert said she doesn’t feel the three-lane road has made left-hand turns any easier.
Leppert said the road is probably safer for pedestrians now since the traffic is farther from the sidewalk because of the 4-foot buffer on each side of the curb.
Sal Noriega, who lives at the corner of West Madison Street and South Avenue C, said the change to a three-lane road had an unexpected effect on his feline companion. He said the three lanes screwed up his cat’s timing when it crossed the street and that it was hit by a car shortly after the conversion to three lanes.
Noriega said he has seen several vehicles use the middle lane improperly by driving down it as if it were any other lane rather than using the lane only for left-hand turns.
“You hear them screeching their tires because people are fighting over the lane,” he said. “It’s pretty crazy.”
Noriega said the traffic on the street is slower, but he sees both positives and negatives about that.
“You’ve got to look at all these people who don’t like you,” he said.
Noriega has children who have to cross the street to go to school, and he said the street is safer for them. He said he’s glad the road was repaved because the old road was hard on his tires. He appreciates the new sidewalk ramps that were paved on all the corners along West Madison Street.
Kerry Miller, who lives on West Madison Street, said he’s noticed a lot more cars honking their horns since the three-lane went in.
“I liked the four-lane road better, because I don’t really understand the concept of a three-lane road,” he said. “I think we’re going to have more crashes than we did when we had the four lane. If you get a drunk driver on there who’s used to the four-lane road, they’re going to go in the middle lane and hit someone.”
Miller said that vehicles are not using their turning signals properly when they enter the middle lane. The main complaint he has about the new road is that it seems to be encouraging drivers to drive very fast on it.
“They’ll rev up their engines,” he said. “The teenagers go as fast as they can, since it’s a new road and they want to get their marks on the road.”
Miller said his friends complained about how the old road messed up their tires, so he and his friends are glad that the road is smoother.
Esther Feltz, who lives near West Madison Street, said her main concern is what will happen in the winter when the snowplow pushes snow on the curb. Feltz said that the snowplows push the snow onto the terrace, which then falls onto the sidewalk and turns to ice. She hopes that the buffer zone by the curb will mean that the snowplow won’t have to push the snow so far onto the terraces of the West Madison residents.
Carla McCandless said she supported the change to three lanes when she heard about it last year. She was very glad the road was resurfaced, because she lives on West Madison and the trucks used to make an awful noise when they rolled over the potholes, which would even shake her house.
McCandless likes the buffer zone on the side of the road because the former four-lane road was dangerous for pedestrians or people who worked in their yard.
“When you went to mow your lawn, you were taking your life in your hands,” she said.