SHERIDAN — With the Main Street lane reconfiguration test set to conclude next week, Sheridan city staff, Wyoming Department of Transportation officials and Sheridan residents seemed to agree that the trial was successful.
The city received 981 responses to a public survey on the test; of those 65% (638) were positive 28% (270) were negative and 7% (73) were neutral, according to City Engineer Hanns Mercer.
While the city initially tested the three-lane configuration to explore the possibility of widening sidewalks along Main Street, Sheridan Community Development Director Brian Craig said the city likely will not change the sidewalks even if the configuration does become permanent. However, Craig said several community members commented that they felt more comfortable and safer driving on Main Street with the reduced lane configuration.
WYDOT District Four Traffic Engineer Michelle Edwards said the traffic tests indicated the lane configuration had very little effect on the traffic volumes on Main Street or adjacent side streets.
District staff paid close attention to traffic patterns during Main Street’s peak usage hours — with 4 p.m. to 6 p.m. typically being the busiest window — and Edwards said they were also largely unaffected by the lane reconfiguration.
Overall, she said the tests indicated the three-lane configuration could be implemented long-term without disrupting Sheridan’s traffic flow with the city’s current population, Edwards said.
WYDOT also used traffic modeling software to project how the configuration would function if the city continues to grow. The projection — which simulated what traffic patterns would look like in 20 years, assuming Sheridan’s population grew by 1% each year — showed the configuration may not perform as well if traffic in Sheridan increases considerably.
Edwards noted the four-lane configuration could also create issues with that kind of growth, though.
That could also apply to times when the city sees a surge in visitors, such as Rodeo Week. However, Edwards said Sheridan is going to see traffic disruptions during Rodeo Week no matter how Main Street is configured.
“Rodeo Week doesn’t work well with the four-lane configuration,” Edwards said.
And while the 4-foot buffer zone was popular with both drivers and WYDOT when used properly, some bikers mistook the zone as a bike lane, which created issues.
If the city does implement the configuration permanently, Edwards said WYDOT recommends it stripe the buffer zone differently to ensure the buffer zone is not mistaken as a bike lane.
Business owner responses
The city of Sheridan and the Downtown Sheridan Association solicited feedback from business owners along Main Street during the test and Mercer said the response from those owners was generally positive.
Shop owners who attended Tuesday’s meeting backed up those results.
Jessica Garrelts, who owns Cottonwood Kitchen+Home, said she was initially nervous about the three-lane configuration because she thought drivers would ignore Main Street and would not see her store. But she said her business saw just as many customers during the test as it does normally and most of the customers she spoke to liked the change. Bighorn Design Studio owner P.J. Treide said his business actually increased during the test, and his customers also spoke favorably of the change.
Additionally, Treide said he noticed a reduction in accidents on Main Street during the test.
“Before this test started, it was at least once a week we saw somebody’s mirror taken off, before we got that buffer zone,” Treide said.
The three-lane test will officially end Saturday, Sept. 28 at 9 p.m. The next morning, WYDOT crews will repaint the lane striping on Main Street, restoring it to the four-lane configuration.
Edwards said if Sheridan wants to implement the three-lane configuration permanently, it will have to notify WYDOT by March 1, 2020 so the department can factor the new configuration into its plans for the 2023 resurfacing project.
During Sheridan City Council’s regular meeting Monday, City Public Works Director Lane Thompson and City Administrator Mark Collins said city staff is working to determine exactly how much it would cost the city to implement the three-lane configuration and plans to present council with those costs sometime in October.
Collins noted that the poles and mast arms supporting traffic signals on Main Street may have to be replaced to accommodate new signage, per WYDOT standards, if the three-lane configuration is to become permanent, which would likely be the greatest cost associated with changing the configuration. Council members said they will wait to hear city staff’s cost assessment before making a decision on the future of Main Street.