Hamilton vs City Council: Bloomington Mayor Vetoes 7th Street Stop Sign Ordinance, Citing Safety and Process Concerns

Staff report

Bloomington, Indiana – October 13, 2023

In a move that has stirred debate among Bloomington Common Council members and the public, Mayor John Hamilton announced today that he has vetoed Ordinance 23-23, which aimed to reinstate stop signs at various intersections along 7th Street and the 7-Line protected bicycle lane, according to a press release from the City of Bloomington.

Mayor Hamilton, in a message addressed to Council members, expressed his concerns over safety, data utilization, and the procedural aspects of the decision.

The controversy stemmed from the decision to remove stop signs at five intersections along 7th Street when the 7-Line bicycle lane was introduced in late 2021. This decision aligned with a 2020 ordinance unanimously approved by the City Council, which aimed to prioritize 7th Street as a key east-west route, especially for cyclists and public transit users. However, in April 2023, the City Engineer issued a 180-day order to reinstate stop signs at one intersection – Dunn and 7th Street – due to a noticeable uptick in accidents at that location. The move was based on recommendations from both the Bicycle and Pedestrian Safety and the Traffic Commissions, following a comprehensive review of traffic and crash data since the completion of the 7-Line project.

On October 4, 2023, the Bloomington City Council voted to retain the three-way stop sign at the 7th and Dunn Street intersection, consistent with earlier recommendations from resident commissions. Additionally, the Council approved an amendment directing the reinstallation of three more stop signs at the intersections of Morton, Washington, and Lincoln streets, with a vote of 5 in favor and 4 against.

Mayor Hamilton’s veto hinges on several key arguments. He emphasized the importance of safety, proper use of data, and adherence to a structured process in making traffic management decisions. The Mayor pointed out that sudden changes in traffic patterns can be a safety concern, as the public needs time to adjust to new conditions. Reverting intersections to their pre-2021 state and potentially changing them again in a few months could lead to confusion and, more importantly, public safety concerns. Mayor Hamilton proposed that allowing a full year of data collection since the April 2023 changes would provide more meaningful insights for making significant adjustments.

Furthermore, Mayor Hamilton contested the primary rationale behind the Council’s decision to amend the ordinance. Some Council members had expressed concerns about pedestrian safety and comfort. However, since the 7th Street corridor reopened, pedestrian safety has actually improved, with a decrease in pedestrian-involved accidents.

The Mayor also raised concerns about the procedural aspects of the amendment, stating that it did not provide the public, including resident commissions tasked with advising on changes, with adequate notice or opportunities for input.

In conclusion, Mayor John Hamilton vetoed Ordinance 23-23 and ordered a second 180-day order to maintain the status quo at the 7th and Dunn Street intersection. This extension will allow additional time for public review, data collection, and discussions, ultimately aiming to make informed decisions regarding Bloomington’s multi-modal transportation system by or before April 2024.

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