The City is reviewing three very significant potential changes in local traffic patterns, each of which is laid out in this presentation made to the Council last night:
1) Cedar/River/Palmer: Consolidation of the unusual and inefficient one-way streets at this intersection into a more traditional and rational confluence of two-way streets. I suspect that this proposal will be well-received by most people.
2) Train Station: Conversion of the present two-way system of ingress and egress into a one-way system with entry from the west on Division Street and exit to the east on North Avenue. This proposal is aimed at making it easier to get to and from the train station, relieving the traffic crunch that often occurs during commuter hours. Fortunately, it will be possible for us to test this new pattern on a pilot basis before making any permanent decisions.
3) Downtown: Restoration of two-way traffic on Main and Huguenot Streets. This last proposal is certainly the most complex and potentially controversial of the three. Most planners and retailers strongly support two-way traffic patterns, which have been shown to boost economic activity and improve pedestrian safety. The counter-argument, of course, is that traffic calming (good) could degrade into traffic obstruction (not so good.) We would also lose a small number of on-street parking spaces to accommodate turning lanes.
The professional consultants who reviewed these options argue strongly that the width of Main Street would permit a driver to circumvent a car in the travel lane and that, with better enforcement of double-parking restrictions, a two-way system would function well. Keep in mind also that the total volume of cars on the road would decrease, because drivers could go directly to their destination, rather than circling around.
Council Member Ivar Hyden summed it up best last night when he said that many City officials (including me) were initially skeptical of the two-way downtown system, but have become increasingly open to the idea as we have received more information, analysis, and input from experts.
No final decisions yet. And the downtown traffic pattern, in particular, is dependent on a federal transportation grant for new signalization.
Regardless of our opinions about these options, it is important for the City to think carefully about traffic circulation and not automatically dismiss changes simply because they challenge the status quo. We should be open to bold action, if there is solid evidence for its benefits.
Again, there is more in this presentation.