The McPherson City Commission fielded concerns from the public about North Main Street's transition from four to three lanes for almost an hour on Monday night.


The McPherson City Commission fielded concerns from the public about North Main Street's transition from four to three lanes for almost an hour on Monday night.
While members of the community spoke both in favor of and against what Mayor Tom Brown called an “experiment,” the vast majority shared their frustrations with the changes.
“Main and First is a disaster waiting to happen,” said Danny Walthers.
He said businesses near the intersection were noticing a large number of near accidents resulting from people either ignoring or not noticing the transition from four lanes to three.
“Please don’t do that to First Street next year, don't do that elsewhere — leave things at four lanes,” Walthers said.
As they walked to the front of the room, speakers brought with them a host of different concerns regarding the project. Some said bike lanes had been ineffective, while others noted hazards to school children at the intersection of Northview Avenue and Main Street. Several said they had stopped using Main Street altogether, opting either to avoid McPherson's downtown or to utilize Ash and Maple streets to get to downtown businesses.
McPherson resident Larry Venable said forcing traffic onto side streets conflicted with the original decision to widen Main Street to four lanes.
“The reason you did this was safety,” he said. “You said it’d move traffic and get people off of Maple and Walnut street and Ash and get them onto Main Street so that the public — kids and all those people that were using the side streets — would be in less danger.”
By constricting traffic on Main Street, Venable said, commissioners were putting pedestrians back in harm’s way.
Some constituents expressed their support of the transition. McPherson resident Gary Mehl said he welcomed the changes, noting the wider lanes and room for bicycles along north sections of the road were beneficial to area residents.
In response to a great deal of confusion as to the legality of passing slow-moving vehicles in the road’s turn lane, Acting Police Chief Ken Gent said the law was on the side of fast drivers.
“If you’re behind someone that’s slow, you can pass in that center lane,” Gent said as the crowd audibly voiced disagreement and drowned him out. They countered that signs stated the middle lane was for turning only, a statement refuted by Kansas statute. Gent said, as far as the law is concerned, passing in the lane is completely within their rights.
Brown also took time to present the findings of studies that examined the effects of the transition from four lanes to three. His numbers showed average traffic speeds had not diminished as significantly as some were arguing, with vehicles rapidly accelerating from 19.8 miles per hour near Main Street and Kansas Avenue to 32 by the road's intersection with First Street.
Police chief
Other issues in the forum were less contentious. Newly hired McPherson Police Chief Robert McClarty shared a few words about his prior experience and the things he hoped to accomplish in his new role.
“I don’t know of anything that is broke in the police department,” McClarty said. “You have an incredible community here and a great police department.”
Mausoleum
A presentation regarding plans to update the mausoleum, located within the McPherson Cemetery, also went uninterrupted. City Administrator Nick Gregory told the public the structure, built in 1930 and handed over to the city government in 1981, would cost about $193,000. Brown said $30,000 had been raised in private donations in recent days, and the city planned to allocate $100,000 from the cemetery’s standing endowment to the repairs. Brown said remaining costs would also be managed through fundraising.
Trade boards
The public did not have any input on the commission’s proposed restructuring of trade contractor boards, with commissioners planning to consolidate the standing electrical, mechanical and plumbing certification boards into one entity.
Sidewalks
There was some response to a presentation made by Public Works Director Doug Whitacre on the city’s sales tax-supported sidewalk initiative. Whitacre explained which areas of McPherson had already seen improvements and which could expect expansion in the future.
Whitacre shared city plans to map complete bicycle loops on city websites once projects are completed. With help from Brown, he also outlined a plan to offer grants to homeowners, which would help them repair sections of sidewalk on their properties.
Whitacre specifically noted a plan was in place to connect existing park sidewalks with the city’s Firefox subdivision. Commissioner Mike Alkire also assured constituents plans to promote the construction of pedestrian and bicycle corridors had not been abandoned and had instead been prioritized lower than public safety and school connectivity concerns.
Other comments
Brown took a few moments at the conclusion of the meeting to counter claims made against him in a Facebook post, saying allegations the city was operating under any kind of deficit were completely false. He also said improvements made to Maxwell Street were not because of his interest in Turkey Creek Golf Course.
At the end of the night, however, McPherson's evolving traffic situation remained in the spotlight.
“You wanted input,” said Randy Flickinger, McPherson resident. “You've got a World Series on, football, and you've got 80 people here, and the vast majority are telling you they don't like this idea.”