Hillcrest neighborhood residents will challenge changes to Ninth Street on Tuesday even though contractors already are working to widen a 500-foot section west of Emery Road.
Neighbors fear the changes will result in fender-benders and traffic fatalities, eventually forcing the city to create four lanes of traffic farther up the street.
"What's the public outcry going to be when people start to rear end the cars in front of them?" said Arthur Anderson, president of the Hillcrest Neighborhood Assn.
"It's going to be, `Why the hell didn't they put in four lanes to Iowa in the first place?' and that's what we're really afraid of," he said.
Anderson will lobby commissioners for the changes at their meeting Tuesday, which will get under way at 6:35 p.m. in the city commission meeting room at city hall, Sixth and Massachusetts.
Neighbors have presented a petition to the city with the signatures of about 150 people asking for modifications to the summer-long project.
THE CITY hopes construction will create safer driving conditions on Ninth and better sight lines for drivers entering Ninth from Emery.
Crews will widen a 500-foot portion west of Emery to four lanes. A three-way traffic signal will be installed at Ninth and Emery.
When finished, the widened portion will taper back to two lanes well before Ninth intersects with Avalon Road, according to Terese Gorman, city engineer.
The neighborhood residents fear westbound traffic will slow to a halt after merging, because some drivers must turn left across the eastbound lane to get into nearby apartment complexes.
Anderson says evening drivers will be too busy jockeying for position in the merge and trying to avoid the glare of the setting sun to notice stalled traffic.
"ACCIDENTS are inevitable," he said. Public outcry after bad accidents could force commissioners to widen Ninth Street to four lanes all the way to Iowa.
"This is unacceptable to the neighborhood. People already drive too fast on Ninth. We have Hillcrest School nearby. It's amazingly quiet out there. I think a lot of people would be willing to live with it like it is," he said.
As a solution, residents suggest keeping the left-hand lane on westbound Ninth at Emery a left-turn-only lane. That way, cars shooting up Ninth Street would use the right lane and stay in single file as the lanes merge.
They also recommend eliminating the broken lane markings between the westbound lanes after Emery, so drivers won't think Ninth is entirely a four-lane street.
Bringing in the northern curb a couple feet also would let drivers know they soon must merge, Anderson said.
Meetings between neighborhood residents and city officials about the road project date two years.
GORMAN SAID this morning that the city could make the changes the neighbors suggest. "You can always change things," she said.
Howver, bringing in the curbs may create additional costs and lanes too narrow for safe driving, she said.
Eliminating the traffic marking may confuse drivers, she said.
"You would create one very wide lane," she said. "People wouldn't know where to go."
In addition, creating the left-turn-only lane could compromise the efficiency of traffic flow. "It adds a little bit of delay," Gorman said.
Gorman said she couldn't predict potential delays in the project if plans were changed. The current finish date is Sept. 4.
"I don't think moving the curb line around will cause a significant delay," she said. "The only issue is they could lead to a bunch of other stuff."