SHERIDAN — City staff offered Sheridan City Council an update on the planning of the city’s Downtown Streetscape Project and discussed potential tests that would aim to gauge the impact of that project during council’s regular meeting Monday.
The Wyoming Department of Transportation will begin a resurfacing project on Main Street, from Burkitt Street to Dow Street, in 2023 and the city is exploring ways it can partner with WYDOT and capitalize on this project to improve Sheridan’s downtown.
Last year, the city brought consultants to Sheridan to suggest potential changes the city could make to its downtown in conjunction with the resurfacing project.
The consultants’ recommendations largely focused on creating more sidewalk space downtown in an effort to attract more pedestrians and encourage visitors to spend more time downtown.
They proposed several options, some of which could be implemented with only minor changes to the current downtown.
However, the consultants also proposed plans that would reduce the number of lanes on Main Street and use the space created by eliminating those lanes to extend downtown sidewalks.
Sheridan Community Development Director Brian Craig said he and Mayor Roger Miller discussed possible changes to Main Street with downtown business owners and heard a willingness to explore how those changes might function.
Craig said 45 of the 47 business owners he and Miller spoke to said they would be in favor of the city temporarily reconfiguring lanes on Main Street to test how the changes would affect traffic and parking. Further, only three of the 47 business owners Craig and Miller spoke to said they were opposed to a permanent reconfiguration of Main Street.
However, Craig said the downtown business owners did not necessarily see a benefit in using the additional space a re-configured Main Street could create to widen sidewalks; only 11 of the 47 businesses polled said they thought expanded sidewalks would help their business, with the majority of downtown owners indicating they would prefer any additional space created be used for parking, Craig said.
The city does not plan to move forward with conducting tests on Main Street based on its informal survey, Craig said, but will begin preparing to conduct a test by establishing metrics both WYDOT and city staff would track during the test and estimating what the test would cost; moving forward with the test would ultimately require council’s approval.
Craig said if the city does decide to conduct the test, staff has tentatively proposed reducing Main Street to three lanes from Loucks Street to Dow Street for three to four weeks in August. He said the test would not only gauge how the lane reduction affects Main Street, but also whether it diverts traffic to side streets.
In addition to the city, WYDOT would also monitor the effects the lane reduction has on traffic and could choose not to allow a lane reduction as part of the streetscape project if the test indicates it would create too much of a traffic burden.
However, Sheridan WYDOT District Engineer Scott Taylor said his organization would support the city conducting a test.