In 2018, the City of Memphis and The Works, Inc. tested a demonstration project along Walker Avenue in South Memphis to provide temporary examples of safety improvements for all users of the street. The goal of the project was to give the community and residents the chance to experience the proposed project before permanent installment. The prototype allowed both the City and community to discover the best traffic and safety developments needed to create a safer, more attractive, and livable street.
The Walker Ave. Traffic Calming project began two and a half years ago, when residents complained of excessive speeding along the street and perceived dangerous conditions. After conducting analysis on the street, the City determined Walker Ave. would be a suitable testing ground for novel designs that calm traffic and improve safety. Data revealed a recent history of crashes, and showed some drivers traveling up to 60 MPH on this residential street. The following image shows reported collisions spanning a year and a half on Walker Ave. (Third St. to Mississippi St.). Thanks to the Big Jump project – which selected Memphis as one of 10 cities in the country to deliver safer streets in targeted areas – resources were available to respond to these trends with the demonstration project.
Walker Avenue from South Third St. to Mississippi Boulevard has a high number of children-centric activities and land uses, such Ida B. Wells Academy and Knowledge Quest. The addition of traffic calming methods such as high-visibility crosswalks and traffic circles will reduce car speeds and provide a safer environment for people walking along the street, especially young residents.
A speed analysis before and during the Demonstration Project was conducted. The project involved the installment of a temporary traffic circle, pinch points, and the addition of educational signs.
Before the installation of the traffic calming obstacles, the average speed on Walker Ave. was 29 MPH. During the project, however, car speeds were reduced to 23 MPH. It is important to note that before the project began, 28 cars were recorded travelling speeds greater than 45 MPH, whereas during the experiment only 4 cars were recorded travelling over 45 MPH.
The speed analysis, input from residents, and other important data obtained from this demonstration is the reason why the City is confident the permanent redesign of Walker Ave. will encourage safe behavior and improve the interaction of multiple modes of travel.
What Is the City of Memphis Proposing and When?
On February 4, 2019, the City held a public meeting at Ida B. Wells Academy to discuss the permanent proposed improvements with the community in hopes of gaining feedback from the temporary experiments before moving forward with the project.
The City will redesign Walker Ave. (from Third St. to Mississippi St.) with permanent slow shoulders, bump-outs at up to eight intersections, a traffic circle at Wellington St., and high-visibility crosswalks. In addition, pinch-points and landscaping are currently under consideration.
The next step in the Walker Avenue project is to complete the construction documents, which should be complete by the summer of 2020. Citizens can expect to see the process of re-paving and installation of slow shoulders begin anytime from July 2020 through June 2021. By the time March 2021 rolls around, construction of traffic calming improvements should begin and will continue until June the same year. It is important to note the traffic calming improvements are dependent on securing sufficient funding. A grant awarded to The Works, Inc. from the Kresge Foundation will assist in part with the project’s construction budget.
Be sure to keep an eye out for updates on the Walker Avenue project as it progresses over the year. To catch up on other interesting events happening with Bike/Ped Memphis, click here.