DANVILLE — Several designs have been proposed for resurfacing part of North Vermilion Street next year, but whichever option city officials choose, two things are for sure: Drivers will have a smoother ride and wider lanes.
The lanes are narrow on Vermilion Street between Fairchild and Harrison streets, about nine feet wide, according to city Engineer David Schnelle.
He said that's "very narrow for a four-lane roadway."
The city's goal is to resurface that section of Vermilion some time next year and that's the optimal time to re-configure the lanes while also improving the surface.
"It's a fairly rough ride," Schnelle said, "as well as it's the main corridor to our downtown."
Last week, crews were finishing up part of the city's annual streets improvement program, overlaying with tar and chip all or parts of almost 50 streets.
Schnelle said the Vermilion Street project would be an actual resurfacing, in which part of the existing surface would be removed and a new surface laid.
But widening the lanes along that section of Vermilion Street wouldn't require widening the street, just re-configuring the space, and there are several options.
In this case, six options, and city officials are asking for public input on which would be best for this Vermilion Street Corridor project. All the alternatives include wider driving lanes but have various combinations of a center turn lane, a landscaped center median with turn spots, bike lanes and on-street parking lanes.
Currently, that section of Vermilion Street has four driving lanes, two north, two south, and parking lanes on both sides of the street.
The first two options would create four wider driving lanes. But one would have parking on one side of the street, and the other would have no on-street parking and bike lanes on both sides of the street.
The remaining options would create three lanes: north and south driving lanes with a center turn lane or a landscaped median with turn spots where necessary. The only difference among the three-lane configurations is whether there would be two parking lanes on either side, or two bike lanes and a parking lane, or two bike lanes and no on-street parking.
Schnelle said the city would like to resurface that entire section from Fairchild to Harrison next year, but it may be done in sections, depending on the budget. Regardless, the city wants an overall design plan in place first.
He said there are pros and cons to each option.
"So there is some give and take," said Schnelle, who added that there's a perception among some in the community that Vermilion Street in that section needs four driving lanes.
But the traffic counts, he said, don't warrant it. There are higher traffic counts on sections of Fairchild Street and Bowman Avenue and those streets don't have four driving lanes, he said. Traffic counts pick up around Clay and Woodbury streets, Schnelle said, and that's due to traffic from Danville High School and the CVS store at the corner of Vermilion and Fairchild streets.
And some of the options eliminate on-street parking. There's hardly any residences along that section of Vermilion, and most of the businesses have off-street parking. Schnelle said there's little on-street parking through there.
Red Mask's theater at 601 N. Vermilion St. does use on-street parking, especially on performance nights.
Linda Bolton, a member of the Red Mask Players and former board president, said the problem is that the theater doesn't have its own parking that can accommodate patrons. The small lot behind the theater, she said, fills up with performers, and nearby businesses have allowed theater-goers to use their parking lots, but that requires patrons to cross Vermilion Street or one of the side streets.
Bolton said the on-street parking directly in front of the theater is used for accessibility.
"You have to walk a ways otherwise," she said.
Schnelle said he has received some community feedback, but city officials want more in coming weeks. They are encouraging the public to go to the city's website, for a description of the project and each alternative as well as instructions about how to give input on which alternative they prefer. The city also has set up a Facebook page for feedback on the project, https://www.facebook.com/VermilionSt.