Sha Narrows Plans To Widen E. Main St.

April 17, 1991|By Daniel P. Clemens Jr. | Daniel P. Clemens Jr.,Staff writer

WESTMINSTER — If anything came from Monday's meeting on revising the East Main Street project, it was this: The road likely won't be widened.

That'sthe message state highway planners heard from the eight-member task force charged with assisting in the redesign.

"The consensus is to stick as close as we can with the existing width," said committee member William B. Dulaney, who runs the Main Street law firm of Dulaney, Parker & Scott.

And though original state plans called for a wider street, State Highway Administration planners said during the 2 1/2-hour meeting that a workable plan can include maintaining the street width.

"My bias, if I have one, is to hold the curb line where it is and work on (road reconstruction) from there," said Charles Adams, chief of the SHA's landscape architecture division.

"Today's width is a good place to start from."

The task force sprang from the City Council's decision to revisit the $2.8 million plan, which was the target of a flood of public dissent at a Jan. 14 public hearing.

The plans included widening the street to 40 feet from Longwell Avenue to Quintal Road. The width now ranges from 34 1/2 feet to 38 1/2 feet. Plans also call for new water mains and storm water drainage pipes.

But residents and merchants objectedbecause widening would mean narrower sidewalks and removal of many trees.

The council began to budge only after the hearing. Then, after SHA officials assured the city that state money for the project would not be jeopardized if time were taken to review the plans, the task force was formed.

The group met with seven SHA administrators at City Hall and discussed issues ranging from traffic to safety to trees. Adams said the best place to start with reforging plans is street width.

"That drives a lot of things."

The group also debated what to do with utility wires -- power, telephone and cable TV lines -- draped over Main Street.

Many residents have said they find thewires unsightly and want them buried or relocated in alleys. But dealing with the wires is an expensive task that the state, as a matter of policy, will not pay for.

City administrators have said they'renot optimistic that utility companies would foot the bill for movingthe wires, leaving the city government as a last resort.

That appears an unlikely prospect because estimates for burying the wires hover around $4 million, while the cost of relocating the lines would beabout $2.5 million. At the January hearing, some residents asked that the city not pay for the wires.

Task force member Tom Gordon said Monday that historical photographs show that wires have been hanging over Main Street since the 1880s. Considering the cost to remedy the wires, people should learn to live with them, he said.

"Don't live in a dream world when you come to this wiring thing," said Gordon,owner of Silver Image Antiques on Main Street.

Adams said the SHAwill take the comments offered Monday and work on a new plan. The next meeting is tentatively set for 7 p.m. on Tuesday, May 7, at the Volunteer Fire Co. on Main Street.

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