SHERIDAN — The speed of implementation of Sheridan’s three-lane Main Street configuration caught some Sheridanites by surprise — particularly those organizations who have been involved in the process and testing since the beginning.
The Sheridan County Chamber of Commerce was involved originally in conversations around the 2019 testing, and Chamber CEO Dixie Johnson said she understood the city was planning to move forward with the configuration, but “was not aware they were moving forward so quickly.”
She also said the Chamber was not involved in any recent conversations about the configuration with the city.
Downtown Sheridan Association Executive Director Zoila Perry said her organization received an update from the city a few weeks ago saying it may be possible to implement the configuration in the fall but did not receive any word before the announcement at Monday’s city council meeting.
She said she is, however, excited for the configuration and doesn’t believe the implementation will be an issue for downtown businesses.
Sheridan Public Works Director Lane Thompson said they have tried to keep everyone informed during the last several months of the process, but because the final approval came together late last week, he said Monday was the first time any group in Sheridan found out the city was moving forward.
Construction crews will close Main Street beginning at 10 p.m. Saturday to remove the street’s current striping and put down striping for the three-lane configuration. The road will then reopen for use at 4 p.m. Sunday.
The final configuration consists of two 8-foot parking lanes on either side of the street, two 4-foot empty buffer zones between the parking lanes and road, two 12-foot travel lanes and an 11-foot center turn lane.
The city initially tested the three-lane configuration in September 2019, with WYDOT District Four Traffic Engineer Michelle Edwards saying traffic tests at that time showed there was little effect on traffic volumes on Main Street or adjacent side streets, according to previous Sheridan Press reporting.
Edwards said the three-lane configuration could be implemented long term without disrupting any traffic flow downtown with the city’s current population.
The city also surveyed 981 citizens on the configuration at the end of September 2019 and received 65% positive feedback, 28% negative feedback and 7% neutral.
City council voted to approve the three-lane configuration May 18, and city staff submitted structural plans to WYDOT, Sheridan city engineer Hanns Mercer said. At that time, the engineer’s estimate was $350,000, but included the cost of entirely replacing the street signal poles because the company the city was looking into for mast arm extensions had gone out of business.
Mercer said at the May 18 meeting the project could be completed earlier than the spring 2021 estimate if the city found a new company to complete the mast arm extensions, which they have now found.
While the bulk of the work is planned for Oct. 10 and 11, Mercer said intersection closures will follow over the next week for necessary changes be made to street signals.
Because the middle lane will be made a left turn lane, crews will be removing one street signal from each intersection and adding a left turn only sign. This requires a steel mast arm extension be added to the end of each street signal post.
“On Monday, [WYDOT] is going to have some intersection closures and they’re bringing crews from all over the state to come in and put up a new signal head, remove the other one and take down the illuminated no left turn arrows,” he said.
The fabricator for the mast arm extension will also begin verification work at that time and will begin building the 5-foot arm extensions, which will be installed by Thanksgiving.
The new configuration should also be better for emergency vehicles, according to Sheridan Fire-Rescue Chief Gary Harnish.
“From the fire department’s point of view, this is a spectacular configuration,” he said. “That turn lane allows for a lane of traffic for the emergency vehicles. The extended area to park in without the traffic right next to you gives us a much better area to work in when we are on a Main Street scene.”
Mercer also told city council it appears the project will come in at a lower cost than the $75,000 currently budgeted, but Thompson said they don’t have a concrete cost yet because they are still ironing out a few of the details.