Welch Avenue reconstruction main topic of discussion for city council Tuesday


Courtesy of the City of Ames

The hybrid construction plan for Welch Avenue that is recommended by city staff based on student input. 

Devyn Leeson

Welch Avenue serves as a passageway for students making their way to-and-from class by day and as a hotspot of student activity by night, but the most popular section — the 100 block between Lincoln Way and Chamberlain Avenue — is more than a century old and in need of repair.

This problem is one that prompted city council to budget for reconstruction in the area, providing the opportunity to not just restore the section, but renovate it. As desires for accessibility, parking spaces, convenience and bike paths can sometimes be at odds, the city, along with community planning groups, conducted a study to help plan the future of Welch Avenue.

The City of Ames and others collected data for the survey through “dot voting,” which is where those questioned were given four options of what they would like to see in a potential Welch Avenue reconstruction, and respondents used stickers to pick their vote.

The survey was also available online with more questions asking respondents to answer exactly what they would like to see. Through online voting, 1,060 people participated.

The 1,242 votes collected by the Undergraduate Community and Regional Planning Club and the city through dot voting were counted individually added up in the report.

The two most popular options through the dot voting were options three and four. Option four would eliminate parking and create bike lanes on both sides and had 457 votes, according to the report from city council. Option three, which would widen the sidewalks and have one side of parallel parking, had 411 votes.

Nine of the 10 survey locations for dot voting were done on campus, something that Bridget Williams, the president of the Undergraduate Community and Regional Planning Club, said could show city council is concerned with hearing the voices of students.

“It’s exciting to see the city is looking into student opinions, especially because Welch is largely used by students,” Williams said. “It is important because students voices are playing a part in this process.”

Public Relations Officer for Ames, Susan Gwiasda, said this is what they had in mind when conducting the survey.

“Absolutely, that is why we partnered with the Community and Regional Planning club, and they did the dot voting for us at different campus locations,” Gwiasda said.

Williams said there were specific areas in the survey she hopes the city considers in their decision Tuesday.

“In the online survey, there are questions that ask more broadly what students value,” Williams said. “I hope those aspects — how far students are willing to park, what they’re looking for in a space — are not only considered for this project, but for future projects that impact student-dominated spaces.”

After seeing the results of the voting, the city staff crafted another option that was a hybrid of the most popular two. Option 6, as it is called in city council’s agenda, would make a single bike lane while retaining a single lane for parallel parking.

“Option 6 is a hybrid option that reflects the desired elements and interests that were received during extensive public outreach,” according to the city council’s agenda. “This option also meets the goals of the project and takes a “complete streets” approach to the design by accommodating multi-modal users with the project.”

The first changes made to Welch happened in May 2016 with a pilot project that was initiated to add temporary features to Welch Avenue in an effort to reduce vehicle, bicyclist and pedestrian conflicts in the 100 and 200 blocks of the street.

One of the main concerns written in the qualitative part of the online survey was related to making the space along Welch into a pedestrian mall. Gwiasda gave a few reasons why this plan would not work well.

“When you have a fire station located on the street, CyRide 2.0, buses going every 10 minutes and a CVS parking lot that couldn’t be accessed with a [pedestrian] mall,” Gwiasda said. “Other businesses have constant deliveries, there is a parking lot and alley by Fighting Burrito that needs Welch to be accessed, and those are some of the reasons why a [pedestrian] mall are not possible on that specific section of Welch.”

Gwiasda said there are alternative areas that could work as a pedestrian mall, but the 100 block of Welch Avenue is a very unlikely location for a future pedestrian mall.