Collinsville, Oklahoma
July 26, 2012
Sidewalk Issues Detract From
Otherwise Impressive New Roadway
S-Curve Re-Alignment / Main Street Widening Project Nearing Completion
Photo Editorial

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Ted Wright -- last update 7/28/2012 (SidewalkIssuesS-CurveOpen.html)

Copyright 2012 -- Collinsville, Oklahoma
Ted Wright Editorial:
Opportunity Lost ... Or Just Delayed?
For Continued Sidewalk Improvements
* City Had Only Limited Role In ODOT Project
* Sidewalks Were Not Primary Project Objective
* Sidewalk Funds Were Limited
* ADA Regulations Drove Decisions
* North-South Sidewalks Not Connected
* One Side Street Crossing Requires Crossing Main Twice
* Retaining Wall Elevation Solution Limited
* Project Completion At Least 7 Months Late
* Pedestrians Got Short End Of Stick

I've struggled with how to best approach what are technically small issues in the grand scheme of a massive project. The overall roadway project should be a significant improvement for vehicle traffic flow through Collinsville.

The side issues relate to what I first described as "poor human engineering" but now appears to instead be a bureacratic process preventing a more reasonable design for pedestrians (including students walking to the nearby Middle School). I'm choosing to not say much more in this part of the "editorial" and let you reach your own conclusions from the text and photos. I've also included a requested response from the city (below) that provides more insight.

It is my hope that the city can find a quick remedy to the sidewalk "mess" once ODOT and it's contractor leave town. I am holding off on saying more on the retaining wall impact on several property owners until I learn more. I've only spoken to one impacted property owner (who was clearly upset), but don't know yet how others feel. And it should be obvious that the city has many more sidewalks needing improvement that are in no way related to the S-Curve project.

I also want to mention that I do understand that a few extra degrees of slope can create potentially dangerous situations to some in wheelchairs or using walkers or blind, etc, but I suspect there were potential workaround soultions that were not explored (that would have been ADA compliant) in the rush to complete a project that was already months behind. I also "get" that the goal of the regulations is to force everyone to upgrade all sidewalks eventually but it is forcing some really poor choices in the meantime.

Also note that the widening of Main Street is "incomplete" as the final "streetscape" between 13th & 14th (in front of the Baptist Church) is still unfunded / unscheduled. That leaves transition issues from the 2 traffic lanes (plus center turn lanes) for 4 blocks to the east in the heart of downtown and from the now 4 lane wide Main west almost to the High School. Getting 4 lanes actually to the High School (not just close) is still pending as is 4-laning for the rest of Highway 20 west to Highway 75.
-- Ted Wright -- Saturday July 28, 2012

July 26 -- To: Pam Polk (City Manager) / Phil Stowell (City Public Works Director),

I walked the nearly completed, mostly opened S-Curve/Main widening project this morning ... as I done many times in the past year. And although it will be celebrated by most as a great improvement (and I agree on the roadway itself) there will be a few (and I'm one of them) that are greatly disappointed in the poor human engineering and attention to detail on sidewalks and "destroyed" front yards. I plan to put that flavor of review on cvilleok in the next day or so and wanted you to at least have an opportunity to comment (before or after). I realize the city has had limited opportunity to drive the multi-headed process but suspect the city will get more than their share of the blame.

Will be building a photo page with examples but the biggest two sore points for me are lack of connection to exiting (or future) north-south sidewalks (and even no east-west sidewalk at 15th by Reynolds) plus the damage to functionality / propertyy values to the retaining wall victims.

-- Ted Wright -- July 26, 2012

Subject: RE: Good and bad news on Main Street/S-Curve

Please accept the following as city staff’s response. Thanks!


Thank you for the heads up and a chance for a timely response. This project has been a sizeable endeavor for all involved and also for those citizens affected. The “S-curve Project” (as we city staff have called it) is solving an age old safety issue that Collinsville is actually known for in places far from our city. When I began working for Collinsville my father in law asked “now where is this?” I answered “Collinsville”. His immediate response was “That’s where that dangerous highway 20 curve is, right?” “Yes sir”.

As you are aware our Main Street is actually state highway 20 and because of this fact the project is the Oklahoma Department of Transportation’s (O.D.O.T.) and not one created or managed by the City of Collinsville. That bit of information is important to realize when one considers what a municipality can and can’t do when affected by a state highway project. We as city staff can field concerns from the public and vector those concerns to the proper O.D.O.T. staff or their agents – which we have. We can voice concerns we as city staff notice and seek answers and understanding which we have also done. Other than that- and when it comes right down to it – it’s still an O.D.O.T. project and not the City’s. Now I’m not identifying this fact to point fingers or shirk responsibility but it’s important for those folks that get information from your web site to understand this. Also it would be an accurate statement to say that the plans to realign the S-curve had been in the works for many years. Both the county as well as O.D.O.T. were working on a solution for quite a long while- years! From discussion with folks I believe that this project became reprioritized over the years and went dormant and then not too long ago was made a priority to initiate, plans were brought together and the project was sent out for bid. The project kicked off and was moving along on schedule. Now all projects or the majority of them a least will have field issues that come up and must be dealt with. Did this project have such field issues? Absolutely and such a short phrase as “field issues” could be considered an extreme understatement however I can honestly say that the people involved in the project responded quickly to sort out the issues, formulate solutions and implement the plan of action. O.D.O.T. staff, contractors, engineers all have been diligent is rising to the challenges of the project. Additional funding was sought and allocated to implement the best solution for the issues at hand – and some of those issues are those you mentioned with the retaining wall and sidewalks.

The City has actually received far more sidewalks than what was included in the plans –over two blocks worth plus an additional stretch that runs in front of the Lincoln Crest addition. These expensive additional sidewalks were agreed upon at the behest of city staff and kind consideration from O.D.O.T. As you mentioned there exists approach walks to residences as well as sidewalks on secondary streets that do not “connect” to the new concrete sidewalks. This is not a disregard of O.D.O.T. or the city ; it is due to A.D.A. (American Disabilities Act) compliance. A.D.A. regulations are very specific for width, grade, radius and slope of new public sidewalks. The existing sidewalks that do not connect to the new concrete could not meet the specifications to do so. As it was explained to city staff – if O.D.O.T. were to connect to a non compliant sidewalk they would have to make the older sidewalk compliant. The need to adhere to the A.D.A. regulations –besides being the law – is to provide the best compliant grade, slope, and radius possible for those individuals that use wheel chairs and scooters. As I mentioned earlier Collinsville received a great deal more sidewalks than was originally planned and part of the fulfillment of the request was an understanding that such “disconnect issues” to older sidewalks were a possibility. City staff and I’m sure many citizens agree that the new sidewalks that have the disconnect issues are better than no new sidewalks at all and that was the choice. Several residences have experienced a disconnect of their approach walk (the private sidewalk that goes to their front doors). This involves the same issue of A.D.A. compliance as well as a private property issue. O.D.O.T. would be required to have a written agreement allowing temporary access to work on private property and then replace the approach walks with A.D.A. compliant walks. Although city staff has received no official reason on why this possibility did not happen I would speculate that project time frame and costs would have been considered.

You mentioned a particular stretch of sidewalk at “15th by Reynolds”. This section of sidewalk was one of the “extra” walkways mentioned earlier. No sidewalk was slated for this area in the original plans. As explained to city staff the only way one could be built would be to adhere to A.D.A. requirements and to do this would affect the “path of travel”. The grade / slope requirements could not be met going further to the east and thus pedestrian traffic had to be directed across Main Street and back onto the compliant sidewalks on the north side. I realize that this path of travel may sound odd to some or most but those are the rules O.D.O.T. must comply with and this was the only option to have sidewalks on the south side of Main Street in that area.

The last issue you mentioned Ted is the retaining wall along the south side of Main Street that extends from the west side of 15th Street to the east side of 17th Street and parallels Main Street. The retaining wall was not part of the plans for the project. The issue of what to do with the grade change from the driving surface and ROW to the front yards of the abutting residential homes presented itself during the construction phase of the project. A solution was needed in order to adhere to the standard required for slope of driveways. With no retaining wall and having only a soil and sod slope would have caused issues with drainage, maintenance, driveways and although its relative- aesthetics. A sidewalk in this area would also have been a difficult if not an insurmountable challenge without the retaining wall. I cannot speak as to why this area did not have more consideration in the original plans – I do not know the answer but I can say that O.D.O.T. and its agents did a very admirable job in dealing with the issue, reaching a solution and funding that solution. Several on site meetings were held between O.D.O.T. officials and the homeowners affected. Agreements were reached and the solution implemented. It is an unfortunate circumstance when one’s abutting property is effected by a project out of the property owner’s control. Although the right of way (ROW) belongs to O.D.O.T. it is understandable that a property owner feels an ownership attachment to right of ways that abut their property. More often than not it is the property owner that mows and maintains the ROW in front of their property. After years and possibly generations of taking care of the ROW abutting their property it is understandable that there is aggravation at the drastic changes that have taken place. City staff understands this and we respectfully regret that some are not happy with the portion of this large project that affects their property. As issues arise the city will continue to talk to its citizens, assess the issues and seek solutions. Although this project cannot be considered a city project by authorship, the fact remains that state highway 20 is our Main Street and we do have a passionate desire to see that it is a quality and safe thoroughfare and part of our community.

Thanks again Ted and as usual if you have any concerns or questions I’ll do my best to identify an answer.

Phil Stowell
Public Works Director
City of Collinsville.

Phil, Thanks for the quick reponse. It is a shame though when our government regulations that are intended to make things better end up making us do things that are clearly worse .. like a sidewalk that ends in the grass rather than connect or having to walk across the major traffic lanes twice just to cross a side street. I will be working on my photo page as I have time the next day or so and will include the city staff response. And I do want to mention that I do appreciate all the city staff has done to make improvements when possible in this lengthy process. --Ted (7/27/2012)
With the final layer of asphalt in place the new "lazy" S-Curve was partially opened up to traffic again Friday July 20th (especially at 19th Street that had been closed for months). The striping was then completed and most of the remaining cones removed by Thursday July 26, 2012. The project to improve the dangerous former S-Curve got rolling in January 2008 when homes and businesses in the new path began to be removed. Roadway construction began in June 2011. I hope to do a few side-by-side before-and-after comparison photos later when the project is officially declared complete. -- Ted
The new east-west sidewalk on the south side of Main at 15th (by Reynold's Funeral Home and a block from the Middle School) dead-ends at 15th and technically only allows crossing 15th by crossing Main to the north side and then crossing Main again to continue back on the south side. (facing west above and east below)
The old sidewalk on the south east side of 15th and Main (to/from the Middle School) now dead-ends into the dirt and grass instead of connecting to the new "ODOT ADA compliant" sidewalk.
This is just one view of the 2 block long "retaining wall" between 15th and 17th Street on the south side of Main. Reynolds Funeral Home gave up their direct Main Street entrance. Several homeowners now have "ackward" driveways cutting thru the wall while some are cut off from Main completely.
The sidewalk/driveway at Mo's service station on the north west corner of 15th and Main is close to connecting to the new sidewalk but has an odd step-up / partial ramp? configuration (with the Middle School in the background).
And just for completeness ... the 4th (NE) corner at 15th & Main also has an old sidewalk dead-end into the grass instead of connecting to the new sidewalk.
This garage near 16th and Main may never see another car as it is cut off from Main by the new retaining wall.
A view from atop the retaining wall showing the new configuration in several front yards on the south side of Main between 15th & 16th.
Facing west towards the new 19th & Main Street intersection and now functioning signal lights.
Not as bad as some of the issues above (and it is likely "compliant") but I'm guessing lining up the end of the sidewalk with the ramp (instead of requiring a 90 degree turn) would have been a better solution here just west of 19th on the south side. I know that the city struggled with ODOT in wanting the additional safety gap between the roadway and sidewalk ... which they got at this location but not others.
I didn't walk all the way to the High School to confirm, but it looks like the sidewalk from 19th and Broadway has been restored.
I'm not sure why the right turn lane (bypassing the new light) at 19th was still blocked Thursday. It left an ackward turn at the light in the meantime.
I realize that signs and other items get damaged in a construction zone but this crumpled crosswalk sign is symbolic of the fact that getting kids (and other pedestrians) safely across Main Street to/from the Middle School has not been a top priority.
The old sidewalk from the north on the north west corner of 14th and Main leaves a grass gap for anyone wishing to walk to the Middle School or Baptist Church (for example.)
Herb Weaver wasn't mayor until the tail end of this multi-year project, but I suspect he can calculate the insurance risk of somone getting injured at this odd connection of old and new sidewalks on the north east corner of 14th and Main (next to his insurance office). Seems to me that just a slight grade adjustment would have allowed a smooth transition instead of this huge trip hazard. -- Ted
Viewer Comments
Hey Ted,

Just read your editorial on the new S curve. I have noticed something that really bothers me on 19th street. They left the stop sign going south on 19th at Broadway. Why would they do that? The signs also still say 3 way stop. I see a chance for many wrecks there if they leave the south bound stop sign at 19th. It is almost the same as the old configuration. Wouldn't it make more sense to take out the south bound 19th St stop sign? Of course, I see the need for the west bound Broadway stop sign, but am at a loss to see the need for the south bound stop sign. Check it out.

Sheryl Witten (7/28/2012)
Sheryl, I've added your comment on the editorial page (& copied to the city). I'll have to go take a look but my initial guess is that it lets the west bound Broadway traffic (needing to continue west) have an equal chance to get onto southbound 19th. -- Ted
I concur with the comments made by Sheryl Witten re the common sense approach to removing the south bound 'stop' sign at 19th & Broadway. As we travel what used to be a 4-way intersection frequently, with the present configuration, it doesn't seem to be much improvement over the old situation. What is the point of having improved access to Main at 19th with a functional stop light, which contributes to traffic moving more efficiently, when a needed improvement such as the removal of the southbound 'stop sign' at 19 & Broadway is not done? As with any change in life, it will take a bit of 'retraining' the locals if the stop sign is removed, but it will facilitate a smoother traffic flow to the stop light. I think the majority of our residents would embrace this 'change'.

Overall the Main Street improvements, namely the straightening of the S curve, has been needed and talked about for many years. At last it is a reality but as you have pointed out with your pictures and timely comments, several problem areas still need attention by Mayor Weaver, the City Commission, and ODOT. Hopefully, these 'problem' areas will be addressed in the near future.

Thanks for keeping us up-to-date on Main Street improvement issues, which are important to all who travel through our beautiful town. We await further developments.

Susan & Mike Worstell (7/29/2012)