Better safety will bloom from 'bulbs'

Monday, June 23, 2003

For drivers and pedestrians, the concrete "bulbs" on B Street in McCook are something new and different. The circular curb extensions are taking shape on both sides of B Street's three main intersections: West First Street, Norris Avenue and East First Street, as well as the south side of the B Street and West Second Street corner.

The main reason for the bulbs is traffic control. "They more properly delineate the lanes for the major streets which intersect with the highway," said Kurt Vosburg, the highway construction engineer for District 7. The effect of the curb extensions will be that drivers who currently edge to the side of the street for right turns will no longer be able do so. There will be just one lane of traffic in both directions on Norris, West First and West Second; allowing only the first driver in line to have the option of turning right after stopping.

But that's not the only safety advantage. According to Vosburg, the bulbs are also a help for those on foot. The bulbs, which extend 13 feet out from the curb, give pedestrians a pedestal, shortening their east-west trips across the street by a considerable distance.

The curb extensions are especially beneficial to handicapped individuals, providing ample room for maneuvering of wheelchairs and gradual slopes for street crossings. No parking spaces will be lost, Vosburg said.

Another possible use of the bulbs -- which have an average width of 13 feet and an average length of 28 feet -- is that they provide potential for beautification efforts. Previous downtown improvement projects have done a good job of enhancing the sidewalks, with tree plantings and brick inserts breaking the concrete monotony. With the rounded edges on the bulbs, the McCook Chamber of Commerce, the McCook Main Street Coalition and progressive downtown merchants can take the lead in further design enhancements.

You've heard about the "Beautify the B!" campaign. In the months to come, the promotion can be expanded to a "Beautify the B Street Bulbs!" effort.

As is so often the case lately, things are changing. Drivers in mid-McCook are going to have to forego edging to the right for quick right hand turns on red, but the overall effect of the bulbs should be greater safety for drivers and pedestrians and additional opportunities for downtown beautification.

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