Tuesday night was a chance for some Evansville residents to see the Walnut Street improvement plan firsthand and voice their concerns.

It’s a massive project that will completely change the layout of Walnut Street.

Some say it’s exactly what Evansville needs while others are concerned about traffic flow.

“Oh, I think this plan is excellent,” said Evansville resident Todd Kranpitz.

Kranpitz is excited about the new plan that will completely reconstruct Walnut Street.

“The more that we do, we talk about a healthy Evansville. This is just one piece to get that done,” said Kranpitz.

The over three-mile long project will stretch between Martin Luther King Blvd and Vann Avenue. The road will go from four lanes to three to make way for a new bike lane.

The sidewalks will also get a makeover and the plan is to install a 10-foot wide trail.

Fiber will be installed in some areas to connect UE, USI, and the medical center downtown.

The plan also calls for storm sewer upgrades and improvements to some intersections.

It’s a plan Kranpitz says is very similar to one made when he lived in Des Moines, Iowa that turned part of that city around.

“They put in bike lanes, they put in an incubator for high tech just like we did and now downtown has expanded dramatically,” said Kranpitz. “It used to be a dive, even a red light district. It is no longer there. It is a thriving, vibrant area.”

Some at the meeting though were concerned about traffic flow, especially around the University of Evansville.

With fewer lanes, some fear it won’t be easy for emergency vehicles, especially fire trucks. to maneuver through the area.

“Currently through UE there’s two lanes,” said Evansville resident Bob Earhart Jr. “So. if a pizza guy is dropping off or there’s a bus loading for Carson, there’s room to get around. Whereas, with this new design there’s going to be one 11-foot wide lane. How do you get an 8-foot wide emergency vehicle through if the pizza guy is sitting there?”

Because traffic is a concern around UE, city engineer Brent Schmitt says a “speed table, ” or an elevated section of the road, will be installed near the university.

“You become at the same level as the rest of that area surrounding you and that elevation change tends to make drivers slow down,” said Schmitt.

Home owners along Walnut Street were also happy to learn that no homes will be affected by this project.

The cost of phase one is $3.2 million.

Construction is set to begin in March of next year. 

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(This story was originally published on March 12, 2019)