SALISBURY — The Salisbury City Council decided earlier this week to again delay a decision on whether to accept Salisbury University’s (SU) offer for free streetscape work on Onley Road.
While the streetscape work would be relatively light and largely cosmetic, some on the council expressed concerns over Onley’s future and what the city needs to do to make the street meet community standards.
“These are city streets,” said Council President Terry Cohen. “They belong to the people of Salisbury.”
SU Director of Facilities and Planning Jeffery Downs met with the council Monday to discuss the school’s willingness to supply lighting posts along Onley and install channelization devices as well as crosswalks and some curbing among other improvements.
“Our prime goal is just to make it safe … we may have to tackle this one bite at a time,” he told the council.
While what SU is offering is hardly extensive, Cohen pointed out that Onley has a history of being a complicated road and along with Bateman St. has managed to stir controversy for years.
“We inherited quite a headache,” she said.
Councilwoman Deborah Cohen noted that nothing about the streetscape work will contribute towards traffic calming, a promise that she reminded the council it made previously.
“We’re not even delivering on that,” she said.
“There is a balance to be achieved here,” added Campbell.
Public Works Director Teresa Gardner explained to Campbell that moving ahead with what SU is offering would not eliminate the possibility for future traffic calming measures.
“Just because we put a signal in doesn’t mean we leave this community,” she said.
Gardner said that Onley Road and the surrounding streets are “an area we will have to watch.” As far as traffic calming goes, she agreed with Campbell that it could be beneficial but suggested the council not jump into anything unprepared.
“The problem is that you have buses in that area as well as fire service,” she said.
Though “nothing is off the table,” Gardner revealed that one popular calming device, a traffic circle, could cause just as many problems as it fixes.
“While they help the flow of vehicle traffic, there are some concerns about pedestrians and cyclists in the circle,” she said.
Last week, the council postponed accepting the SU gift for the first time, while also holding off on a decision to begin construction that would turn nearby Bateman Street into a one-way outlet. Cohen has urged patience and caution with any decisions that could put Onley Road on a path the city is uncomfortable with.
“We are creating a box that will force [residents] to spend their money in Fruitland,” she said.
Anything being proposed right now, Cohen continued, is “an interim solution to a really much, much bigger problem.” She added, “We know at some point that Onley is going to be extended.”
Councilwoman Shanie Shields agreed that there’s no silver bullet to making Onley Road perfect for everyone but urged compromise. Accepting SU’s offer for free streetscaping is a good first step, she said.
“I have no problem supporting this,” said Shields.
Gardner felt the same and reiterated that the city would be paying nothing for the work offered by SU.
SU has expressed a strong interest in getting streetscape work completed this summer before students return for classes. Both the university’s offer and construction for turning Bateman Street into a one-way route will be discussed again at the July 2 special session.