Keep on Truckin’

by Matthew Williams

Keep_on_TruckinIf you ain’t seen a 53-foot tractor-trailer back up West First Avenue from Harrison Park Place to Michigan Avenue without hitting any of the cars parked along both sides of the street, you ain’t seen nothin’.

Back in 2005, the approved truck route through Harrison West was north on Michigan Avenue, west on First, then north on Perry Street to West Third Avenue. The “No Through Trucks” signs at Michigan and First continue to make that route clear, as do many truckers’ GPS systems. Since the Harrison Park Condos were built, however, that route no longer makes sense. First Avenue, which narrows at Oregon Avenue, is often parked up with residents’ cars, and Perry Street—also heavily parked—now features a center median.

Unfortunately, many truckers don’t know about the changes to our neighborhood and too often find themselves trapped on newly residential streets with no good options for getting out. The most daring drivers back up First to Michigan. Most either continue up Perry going the wrong way along the median to avoid the curve or, worse, end up on Harrison Park Place and find that they have no way out except for a series of right turns. Some have figured out how to execute a three-point turn and Perry and First and return to Michigan. A few have driven into the lawn at Harrison Park or over tree lawns to negotiate tight turns and avoid parked cars. Ever wonder why a huge boulder was dropped at the intersection of Perry and Ingleside Avenue? It was put there to deter trucks from trying to turn onto Ingleside because they invariably ran over the curb lawn or the sprinkler system.

The Harrison West Society has noted the problem and has asked me to work with the city to resolve it. I have talked with Stephen Gaines in the Division of Planning and Operations in the Department of Public Service and reported the damage that trucks have caused to Harrison Park as well as to trees in the tree lawns in the area and to private property.

I argued that the current signage is inadequate and hard to see, but after an initial review of the situation, Mr. Gaines contended that in his department’s opinion, the current signage is adequate; he did acknowledge that some drivers might be ignoring the signs. In reply, Kristen Easterday, HWS President, sent a letter to Mr. Gaines, Randy Bowman (Division of Mobility Services), Isom Nivens (Neighborhood Services Division), Chet Ridenour (Short North Civic Association), and Councilmember Eileen Paley disagreeing with his assessment and pointing out specific locations where signage is not visible to drivers until they have already committed to an unacceptable route. She also suggested new sign verbiage, new sign locations, and new sign orientations that we feel would help drivers find their way around Harrison West.

In its latest reply, the city has acknowledged that there is a problem. Patricia Austin (Division of Planning and Operations) commented that the city “regards this problem as a priority,” and she has added it as a task to be part of the Short North parking study due to be published by fall of 2014. Until the study is completed, the society doesn’t expect to see significant improvement in the situation, but we do hope to work with the city to establish reasonable truck routes around the neighborhood as part of their parking master plan.

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