The Corbin City Commission and the Kentucky Transportation Cabinet are at odds over changes to traffic flow on Kentucky Ave. and whether to eliminate parking on Main Street.
At the regular monthly city commission meeting Monday night, Quinton Smith with the Kentucky Department of Highways said officials were disappointed by the commission’s recent decision to return the parking places on a portion of Kentucky Ave near First Christian Church.
The commission had approved the change in October in an effort to make the street safer and to put more parking on the left side of the street to aid the Main Street businesses.
Mayor Suzie Razmus noted that the move was part of the master plan the city approved two years ago.
“I just felt with the additional foot traffic that is happening downtown it was important to take public safety in hand. I did not consider that the right side of Kentucky Ave. was used by as much as it was by First Christian Church,” Razmus explained at the special called meeting on Nov. 1 when the commission voted to reverse the changes.
However, church members voiced their frustration, noting that the loss of those parking spaces was having an adverse affect on people who come to the church for several of its outreach programs, including the international Shoebox ministry and food pantry.
In addition, the church has several members who utilize the handicapped entrance.
“To achieve many of these activities, we desperately need parking close to our church,” said church member Leann Thurman Strunk, one of a dozen members who voiced their complaints during the Nov. 1 meeting. “We have the handicapped ramp on Kentucky Avenue. We reserve this parking area for our handicapped members during church activities on Sunday and Wednesday. Many of our church members need assistance with walking, and are unable to utilize our steps.”
Smith presented the commission with a map pinpointing the traffic wrecks that occurred on Kentucky Ave over a 36-month period between 2016 and 2018.
He noted that as many as 11,000 vehicles use Kentucky Ave. each day. In that time period, there had been 36 wrecks.
Commissioner Trent Knuckles questioned whether it was an issue, as it worked out to about two wrecks per month.
“Most of those are at intersections,” Knuckles noted.
“We considered that by removing the parking we can reduce that,” Smith said.
Knuckles also questioned why traffic suddenly shifted to the right side at Gordon Street, but then veered back to the center at Fourth Street.
“This a good transition point, Smith responded.
Smith then turned to Main Street, explaining that the city may want to consider removing parking from one side of Main Street to allow for wider lanes, and wider parking spaces on the other side.
“The state is not recommending which side,” Smith said.
In addition, the change would allow for the installation of a bike lane if the city commission elected to do so.
Commissioner Andrew Pennington said one of the concerns with removing parking is that parked vehicles provide a barrier between traffic and pedestrians.
“Unless a vehicle is traveling at a high rate of speed, the curb would provide that barrier,” Smith said adding that extending the sidewalks and including landscaping would also be options.
Mayor Suzie Razmus noted that the report Smith provided did not include 2019, which saw downtown add Austin City Saloon, Shep’s Place and The Caboose.
Razmus asked whether the state could perform a short average daily traffic study on Main Street to determine whether the numbers have increased with the new businesses.
“I do think we have a lot more traffic in 2019 than we had in 2018,” Razmus said.
Smith said the city would need to submit a written request to have the state perform the traffic count.
Razmus asked City Manager Marlon Sams to make the request.
The commissioner took no action, meaning the parking will be returned to Kentucky Ave. as approved at the Nov. 1 meeting, and no changes will be made to Main Street.
In other business the commission:
- Approved a proclamation recognizing the Class AA State Champion Corbin High School Boys Cross Country Track Team.
- Approved the second reading of an ordinance establishing eight parking paces on the south side of West First Street between Poplar Street and Kentucky Ave.
- Approved and authorized Mayor Razmus to sign any and all documents relating to a memorandum of understanding with the Carnegie Center of Corbin, Inc. This will allow the organization seeking to purchase and restore the Carnegie Library on Roy Kidd Ave. to apply for grants.
- Approved a one-time cost of living adjustment for all city employees. Full-time employees will receive $500 while part-time employees will receive $250.