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Setting record straight on streets

The May 21 letter to the editor from Robert Hibbs, about the proposed two-way conversions of Church and Linn Streets, contained several incorrect statements.

The letter claimed Main Street is an “abject mess,” with stop signs on each block, and two-way streets inhibit snow removal and cause problems for double-parking deliveries and larger trucks. For over a century, our historic Main Street had two-way traffic. Its conversion back to two-way, again recommended by engineers with expertise about traffic flow that helps businesses and motorists, resulted in a safer, more user-friendly, business-friendly traffic flow, without impeding snow removal. Ask business owners on Main if they want to go back to one-way. What engineering expertise does Mr. Hibbs have or rely on for his conclusions?

Further, Mr. Hibbs’ statement, claiming that I, as mayor, somehow influenced the contractor, a respected professional engineering firm, and city staff, to support two-way street conversion, is baseless. Long before I was on city council, the 2006 City Center Plan recommended conversion of Church and Linn Streets to two-way streets. Many business owners, residents and consultants have recognized this as a positive improvement for downtown for 15 years. Eight years ago, as owner of a professional office on Church Street and as a city councilor then, I did vote in favor of the conversion. But as mayor for the last 3.5 years, I have had no vote. So, I have not voted on any consultant contracts for either the Downtown Master Plan or the Downtown Implementation Plan, nor do I get to vote to set the wages of our city staff or department heads. Mr. Hibbs’ claim that the department heads’ salaries “depend upon pleasing the mayor” is maybe flattering, but totally false.

Mr. Hibbs also claims a survey from two years ago found a “great majority of residents” opposed conversion. Mr. Hibbs is challenged to present this survey data. The Downtown Master Plan, completed in 2019, did not have any survey questions on the two-way conversion. The results, as well as the plan, are on the city’s website, www.marshalltown-ia.gov. Earlier this year, the city did a survey as part of the Downtown Implementation Plan, which asked if those responding had concerns about implementing the two-way traffic at certain locations along Church and Linn Streets — 76% said no, meaning a great majority did not object to the conversion. There was also a written survey done in 2013, mailed to the owners of each business and office on Linn and Church. Exactly 2/3 of the owners who responded favored conversion to two-way, like the earlier conversions of State and Main.

It is encouraging the Downtown Implementation Plan — the development of which invited public input at public meetings and will soon be made public — will give us professional engineering suggestions to make our historic downtown safer for motorists and pedestrians and more easily accessible by citizens and visitors, along with more parking. To build a vibrant downtown needed for our community’s economic future, please listen to the professionals, even if their opinions happen to match mine.

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