Coincident with planned renovation and expansion of State Theatre, the City of Woodland is moving forward a “preliminary feasibility study” for using $1.4 million (about one-third) of reaquired redevelopment funds to improve Main Street and its sidewalks proximate to this project, as well as to install a palm-tree studded traffic median between Walnut and Elm Streets, purportedly to calm traffic and establish a “sense of place / entry” for this project and the western edge of downtown Woodland.

The city council took action on November 4 to allocate about 10% of these funds ($130,000) for developing a specific scope, design and extent of such proposed improvements.  Council consideration of these improvements will then occur on the basis of this preliminary assessment and presentation.

Improved Sidewalks, Parking Are Good; Median Is Doubly Problematic

Sidewalks on Main Street between Elm and Cleveland, especially on the northern side, certainly must be replaced / improved to complement the new State Theatre complex.  Parking is unavailable on the northern side, due to an abundance of driveways associated with historical use of adjacent property as motor-vehicle dealerships.  Dave Hoblit (who now owns this huge property) has, according to city staff, recently accepted removal of all but one of these several driveways, making parking possible on the northern side of this block.

Planting a row of full-sized palm trees in the middle of Main Street, though, clearly is not so dire a need, as improving this block’s sidelined sidewalks.

The notion of lodging palm trees in Main Street references existing palm trees near East and Main Streets, which “sort of frame the eastern gateway[, by now] attempting to create a compatible and complementary entry feature” at the western gateway of downtown, suggests city staff.

Thus, two basic reasons are being suggested for justifying construction of this palm-tree containing center island, traffic calming and various forms of locational identity.

This notion is to combine (purported) traffic calming effects with a western, downtown gateway / boundary feature, reflective of existing palm trees at its eastern fringe.

Neither of these basic premises withstands actual scrutiny.

Palm trees, while relatively decorative and attractive in certain settings, are non-native to Woodland.  They are not historically authentic as any proper symbol of the City’s identity, or that of its downtown, which should eventually be provided with appropriate gateway features.

That these palm trees are being donated by the railroad, is no justification for their unwise / unwieldy use.

Is Median Effective At Slowing Traffic?

Traffic calming is clearly needed upon all of downtown Main Street, much more so than simply a block-long median could ever deliver.  It’s not at all clear, as well, that such a median would even slow traffic stubbornly barreling down what used to be a state highway.

Council member Sean Denny excitedly describes that, when he is visiting his bank between Walnut and Cleveland Streets, “people are going by at 35 and 40 MPH” on Main Street.

Denny strongly believes that Main Street traffic “need[s] to be slowed down before [it] hits Cleveland and Walnut; otherwise, they’re still going too fast before they get to” Main Street having only two lanes, rather than four lanes available west of Cleveland Street.

Tenacious traffic must be greatly slowed / calmed, according to Denny, prior to arriving at the proposed, tree-stippled center-island, purported to accomplish such calming.

This needs to be “looked at hard,” he exclaims.

And well it should be examined; with the obvious solution being installation of stop signs, instead of palm trees.

Stop signs are the original traffic-calming device, genuinely devoted to pedestrian convenience and safety.

Denny Seems Confused

Denny heralds “public safety” associated with the proposed tree-spiked median; yet, he insists that traffic be calmed before this median serves such a purpose.  Something is awry with his contradictory view.

Correct about the urgency of slowing downtown traffic, Denny confusedly applauds this proposed median as the answer, while at the same time contending that the actual slowing of traffic must be done elsewhere.

The city is planning to station a new traffic signal (acquired with federal money) at Cleveland and Main Streets, intending to promote use of Cleveland as an optional traffic diversion from Main Street.  This plan is based on commercial (rather than residential) properties predominating there, while Walnut has more residential uses between Main and Lincoln Streets.

Stop signs at Walnut and Elm Streets (as well as on through downtown to Fourth Street) would surely augment this planned traffic signal at Cleveland, by ultimately resolving the problem of calming / slowing easterly traffic entering downtown.

Council member Jim Hilliard expressed an endorsement of the overall proposal, including the palm tree filled median, despite his occasional statements in support of replacing traffic signals with stop signs upon downtown Main Street.  Such replacement, especially in concert with diagonal parking, would eliminate traffic calming as a justification for this median.

Parking Doubled With Diagonal Use

Increased parking on Main Street, between Elm and Walnut, was also mentioned by Denny as a benefit of these various improvements; however, inclusion of a center median disallows diagonal parking from this key, lengthy block.

Diagonal parking would double available parking, hugely aiding the new State Theatre complex, whose patrons would realize an important “sense of place,” by more easily and conveniently parking their vehicles.

So, it seems quite evident that best serving public safety and improving parking, means eschewing the proposed tree-laden median and instead, relying on standard stop signs to control traffic flow, as well as using diagonal parking to best supply such space and convenience.

Council member Bill Marble indicated, during consideration of this “preliminary feasibility study,” that:  “As we look at the ultimate objectives that we’re trying to accomplish, there may emerge other ideas, and we should look at them all; making sure that, moving toward a final decision, the process has included all of the input that we welcome and we so much need.”

On that basis, perhaps Woodland’s downtown may yet receive the nature of traffic calming and parking which has long been demanded, in order to properly elevate pedestrian values, essential for a flourishing downtown.