First-year Ward 3 City Councilor Steve LeBlanc deserves credit for stepping up and finally advancing the long-delayed Washington Street corridor project to the point where the state's Department of Transportation is coming before residents tonight with a revised plan.
Now, we can only hope that DOT officials — who will present their latest draft for public input tonight at 7 in City Hall's Kyrouz Auditorium — will hear and heed the priorities needed for this project.
Ensuring that the number of parking spaces — admittedly hard to define since they're neither marked nor metered — is maintained so as not to hurt the street's businesses.
Providing improved sidewalks, given that the existing ones regularly endanger pedestrians' health and safety.
Improve or at least maintain the accessibility of the side streets off Washington — a priority that should mean no so-called bump-outs or "nubbins."
Improving the appearance and the flow of traffic along what LeBlanc rightfully calls "the front door to the city."
This time around, the DOT seems committed to most, if not all, of those same goals. Indeed, the idea of maintaining the current level of street parking, now being noted by DOT spokesman Mike Verseckes, wasn't always part of the DOT's commitment in the past.
The remaining key issue is likely to be traffic flow. And two of the project's potential plans for that are likely to spark concerns. And while the DOT is proposing a flashing signal at the slightly off-kilter crossroads where Washington Street meets Centennial Avenue and Grove Street, it's not at all clear how that will help traffic flow through an intersection that already forces any common sense drivers exiting the side streets to stop.
Washington Street does need improvement — and it is the city's gateway, as LeBlanc suggests. But any improvements need to improve the traffic lives of the residents and business owners who need and use it most.
That should be priority No. 1.