Approximately 20 city officials, downtown business owners, and other members of the community came to Corbin City Hall Thursday for the first of three meetings to discuss how to make downtown Corbin more accessible and user friendly.
Throughout the course of the one-hour meeting, discussions were held on wayfinding signage, improving traffic flow, and cosmetic and maintenance improvements.
As a group, those in attendance said something had to be done to slow traffic down as it flowed up Main Street, especially in the areas where vehicles are parked on both sides of the street.
John Carman of Carman and Associates Landscape Architects, who designed the city’s bicycle master plan and the renovations to the parking lot at the corner of Depot and Gordon Streets, led what he described as a listening event in an effort to develop a master plan for downtown.
Several people brought up the speed of traffic, which they said regularly flows at 40 mph or better in an area where the posted speed limit is 25 mph.
“Not only is it a safety issue, but it hurts our merchants,” said Alan Onkst, who serves on the Corbin Tourism Commission.
Others noted that despite alternative routes that appear easier and less congested, motorists see U.S. 25W through downtown as the more direct and fastest way to get from one end of town to the other.
“It is like it is just a means to get from one end of town to the other and not necessarily do people have on their minds to look and see all of the neat things going on,” Onkst added.
With it being a state route, Corbin Downtown Director Andy Salmons, who is also a downtown business owner, said commercial trucks frequently use it as opposed to the interstate or bypass.
“It is a little unsettling to see large trucks barreling down Main Street at 40 miles per hour,” Salmons said, asking if there is a way to reroute through truck traffic out of downtown.
Carman said there are several street design options that work better than speed limits and traffic lights are slowing traffic and his designers will be bringing those options to the table.
One such option is sidewalk bumpouts at the intersections.
“The bumpouts not only decrease the size of the crosswalks to make them more appealing to pedestrians, they give drivers the impression that the street is narrowing, causing them to slow down,” Carman explained.
Another idea that was thrown on the table was reducing Main Street to one lane of traffic.
Several people noted that 18th Street and Master Street are both one lane in each direction and with the exception of a few rush periods, traffic flows well.
Carman said because Main and Kentucky are part of a state highway system, such changes would require state approval.
Other ideas included moving all parking to one side and using the remaining space for two lanes of traffic with a bike lane.
As part of that, the parking would be angled to allow motorists to back into a space and then pull out when leaving as opposed to attempting to parallel park.
Carman asked about the possibility of taking all of the parking off of Main Street and replacing it with parking on Kentucky Ave. and Depot Street.
In addition to allowing for wider lanes on Main Street, Carman noted this could also allow for the expansion of the sidewalks, which several people complained are not wide enough for two people to walk side-by-side.
As part of the process, Carman’s company will be working to develop wayfinding signage for downtown to include directions to businesses, points of interest and parking.
The designers will also develop a lighting plan to better illuminate the parking lots, streets and sidewalks in an effort to make it more inviting.
Lighting is really important, particularly for the restaurants at night,” Carman said.
“You have got to have safe lighting.”
Salmons who has been leading the effort to develop a master plan, said Carman will take the suggestions and begin to develop some options for each of the areas of concern.
“At the next meeting, we will be looking at these options,” Salmons said, adding that representatives from Carman and Associates will have been in contact with Kentucky Department of Transportation officials to determine which of the ideas are feasible from their standpoint.
Shea Hensley, co-owner of Season’s Restaurant and the House of S&J, said the meeting was very informative and that he supports the effort to get everyone with a stake in downtown on the same page and moving in the same direction.
“Hopefully, we can get a uniform look and everyone join with it, and we can get our town to come together,” Hensley said.
A date for the next meeting will be scheduled when Carman and Associates is ready to present the options.
Salmons said when it comes to financing the various projects the master plan is the key.
“You don’t qualify for a lot of the federal grants without a master plan,” Salmons said. “Once we have the plan, we can apply for all kinds of grants.”