KALAMAZOO, Mich. (WOOD) — A change may soon be coming to Kalamazoo Avenue, which serves as a westbound thoroughfare through the downtown of its namesake. In a few years, traffic won’t all flow in the same direction.
The core of the changes from Harrison Street to Stadium Drive would transform the one-way, four-lane road to what is considered an ‘unbalanced’ stretch — a three-lane street with a left-turn lane separating two westbound lanes and a lone eastbound lane.
Kalamazoo traffic engineer Dennis Randolph explained crew-conducted volume studies show two westbound lanes can handle the downtown flow.
“You put enough lanes in to handle the traffic that’s there,” he said. “It doesn’t have to be balanced at all.”
The Imagine Kalamazoo 2025 project seeking federal grant and city money would still have a parking lane to the south. It also focuses on one key concern.
“Studies have just shown that when you have a center left-turn lane, it increases safety in a tremendous amount,” Randolph said.
That would affect not just those behind the wheel, but also pedestrians and cyclists.
“That center left-turn lane is a refuge lane. It allows a place for them to stop if there isn’t a signal. We’ll be providing (concrete) islands in various strategic locations along Kalamazoo so people can get up on an island and be protected from traffic,” Randolph said. “There’s a lot of different activities, not just putting a new surface on the street and painting different lines.”
Randolph said the layouts and plans are not final and encouraged locals to give their feedback in future meetings scheduled for February, March and sometime during the summer.
“In the end, we want a street that’s livable for all folks — car drivers, trucks, bicycles, pedestrians, whatever type of conveyance that people are using — we want them to be comfortable on our street, to be safe on it,” Randolph said.
City leaders expect plans will be finalized by the end of 2023, with construction set to begin in 2024.
Leaders are also considering Michigan Avenue to be reconfigured to the same two-way, three-lane traffic flow. That would at least include the section heading downtown from the west.