SH road diet photo

Workers from Compton Inc. are shown in October 2019 re-striping a portion of Business Loop 196 in South Haven as part of a “road diet” to reduce the number of traffic lanes from five to three, and adding bicycle lanes on either side of the busy thoroughfare.

It’s been a little over a year since South Haven City Council decided to reduce the number of lanes on a portion of Business Loop 196 from five to three, while adding bike paths on either side of the roadway.

Now, city officials want to gather input from local residents about the effectiveness of the “road diet.”

Each Wednesday from 5-7 p.m. in the month of April, the Department of Public Works will host a Zoom meeting to allow local residents to learn more about the road diet, ask questions and provide feedback.

Citizens who are interested in attending the virtual session can email William Hunter, director of public works, at bhunter@southhavenmi.gov, or call 269.637.0719 for the Zoom link.

The idea to reduce the number of lanes on the Broadway and LaGrange Street corridor came about in 2017 as a way to make the busy thoroughfare safer for pedestrians and bicyclists to use.

In October 2019, Compton Inc. of South Haven was hired at a cost of $113,000 to re-stripe the road utilizing a three-lane configuration that included two travel lanes, a turn lane and bike lanes on the outer sections of the street.

However, due to concerns expressed by citizens that the reduction of lanes would cause traffic backups during the busy summer tourism season, council members decided to undertake the project in phases.

The first phase only involved re-striping of the road. City officials then decided to put the reconfigured corridor to the test for a year to determine whether traffic backups would occur, and whether the business loop was safer for pedestrians and bicyclists to use.

“No permanent changes will be made to the existing infrastructure until after the trial period is over and the functionality of the street can be evaluated and additional public comment solicited,” Hunter explained at the time. “We’ll do an assessment after we have had a full year of operation to determine how the changes are working.”

The one-year trial showed that reducing the number of traffic lanes did not create adverse traffic backups downtown.

“The test confirmed a previous study done by the city that traffic wait times increased only 10 to 15 seconds during peak travel times,” Hunter said in a news release.

“Road diets” are a tool that a growing number of municipalities are using to make busy roads safer for not only motorists, but pedestrians and bicyclists.

The strategy is referred to as “traffic calming.”

“Traffic calming uses physical design and other measures to improve safety for drivers, pedestrians and cyclists. This can include reconfiguring the road to reduce traffic speed,” Hunter said.

According to U.S. Department of Transportation’s report, road diets decrease travel lanes for pedestrians to cross, reduce rear-end and side-swipe crashes, improve speed limit compliance and decrease the severity of traffic crashes when they do occur.