Downtown Lafayette is an island of sorts, surrounded by heavily traveled four-lane roads that planners say sometimes act as big walls to keep people out.
“There seems to be a disconnect between the core of downtown and the surrounding neighborhoods,” said Downtown Development Authority CEO Nathan Norris, who hopes to tweak the design of those roads to nurture better connections between downtown and the people who live around it.
The first project being eyed is along Congress Street, the dividing line between the commercial areas of downtown and residential areas to the north.
There are no specific plans and no timeline, but DDA is hosting a workshop at 5:30 p.m. Thursday at the Rosa Parks Transportation Center to toss around some concepts.
The general idea is to slow down traffic and make the road more friendly for walkers and bicyclists and more attractive to developers.
Strategies being considered include reducing the width of lanes, cutting the posted speed limit, adding better crosswalks, expanding walkways and adding bike lanes.
Norris said the hope is to find a fix to slow down cars and improve walkability without causing traffic headaches.
“The idea is to change the character without changing the capacity,” Norris said.
Norris said he would like to see vehicle speeds brought down at least to 25 mph along the stretch of Congress Street that skirts downtown.
The posted speed limit for Congress Street on the eastern side of downtown is 30 mph, and it rises to 35 mph approaching University Avenue.
Norris said the average travel speed is closer to 40 mph.
The workshop also will explore how best to design the Congress Street exit for the proposed Interstate 49 South “Connector” through Lafayette.
The changes being considered for the roads surrounding downtown are part of the recently developed Downtown Action Plan.
Follow Richard Burgess on Twitter, @rbb100.