One-way or Two-Way, HANA’s position on Center and Mesquite

I sit on the city’s Downtown Master Plan Advisory Board representing HANA. The city has hired an outside contractor to develop a set of guidelines for the Downtown Master Plan.

One of the likely recommendations coming from the Downtown Master Plan consultant is to return Center and Mesquite streets to 2-way streets. This would be for the entirety of both streets, not just in downtown.

The rationale given for the proposed conversion is to slow traffic through downtown (one- way streets encourage vehicle speed) and because two-way streets are better for businesses and safer for pedestrians. The projection is that people who want to travel north-south faster with fewer stops and slow-downs would choose Cooper or Collins instead of Center and Mesquite.

While we favor two-way streets over one-way street, we have some concerns about the suggestion likely to be in the Master Plan. Here are some of them:

  1. The proposal is that Center and Mesquite would remain 3 lanes with the center lane converted for left turns. Lindsay Mitchell of the city assured me that there would be center medians and left-turn turn outs. However, there is no mention of the intersections being signaled. We do not feel center turn lane intersections without signals are safe for pedestrians (or drivers). Adding signals at every intersection affected by the conversion would be very expensive.
  2. The relatively short blocks near and through downtown do not afford much space for left turn median reversals and left-turn stacking space in between each.
  3. As proposed the streets would be 2 driving lanes except at intersections. A lot of money was spent to convert those streets to 3 lane one-way streets presumably to accommodate time concentrated commuter traffic to and from Downtown, UTA, Dallas and Fort Worth. That investment would be lost and more costs incurred for the reversion. How would this commuter traffic be affected?
  4. Money spent on the proposed reversion could be spent instead on other street improvements that might achieve similar objectives for both Downtown and HANA.

Persons on the Advisory Committee have brought up other concerns about the proposal:

  1. The current 3 lane one-way streets provide more stacking space for cars when trains are travelling through downtown which helps keep intersections from being blocked.
  2. On game days, Collins street traffic is considerably slowed. People who are traveling north-south avoid this traffic by choosing Center/Mesquite as the next closest option.
  3. The City has spent a lot of money creating new highway interchanges and bridges at Center/I-30 and Center/I-20, presumably to make it easier to get to and from downtown via major freeways. Center has been widened south of Downtown and major improvements were made north of downtown both of which facilitate faster traffic coming into and leaving downtown. From a traffic planning perspective, is slowing traffic through downtown compatible with faster incoming and outgoing traffic?

HANA’s concern is that Center/Mesquite not become swift moving commercial thoroughfares south of downtown through our neighborhood. We have sufficient heavier traffic commercial roads in the area (Cooper, Collins, Abram, Division, Park Row, Matlock).

Whether one-way or two-way, the existing 3rd lane space could be utilized for street parking on one or both sides. Or there could be wider sidewalks with trees and street furniture, public art etc, all being discussed for Downtown to make it more pedestrian and commerce friendly.

Another use for the 3rd lane space would be more room for drop off and pick up for Ride Share (Uber, Lyft etc) activity, which is expected to increase in the future. At present there are no good locations for Ride Share vehicles to safely stop to pick up or drop off .

Or the 3rd lane space could be used for buses or bicycles/scooters, whichever becomes more common in the future.

In short (whether one-way or two-way) preserving the 3rd lane space in some form would provide a lot of flexibility for future transportation options as opposed to creating center medians and left turn lanes. In light of rapidly changing transportation trends we should be building flexibility into our street system not rigidity.

While two-way streets are a standard of successful downtowns and have many documented benefits, overall we feel this proposal needs a lot more study and public input. The stated Downtown Master Plan goals could be met by other less expensive and more flexible means that would also meet the needs of neighborhoods to the north and south of downtown.

Rebecca Boxall

HANA President

 

Comments

  1. I have a small quibble with the statement in the second paragraph 3, which says “The City has spent a lot of money creating new highway interchanges and bridges at Center/I-30 and Center/I-20, presumably to make it easier to get to and from downtown via major freeways.” Center Street does not provide access to I-20, but simply crosses it, making it easier to travel between north and south of I-20, but not to and from I-20. I hope it will remain so. I believe the access to I-30 is important, and may well be a benefit to downtown business and development. So it should remain as it is, with the one-way streets.

    1. True about Center not having I-20 access, however I don’t think they put in such an expensive freeway overpass and lots of improvements on Center from 1-20 to downtown. including widening Center north of Pioneer, so that people could travel south across I-20 via a rather long western detour along Bardin back to Matlock (no connection over to Collins). Few people even know of that route and it doesn’t directly lead to any major destination or street south of I-20.

      Collins and Matlock are both very close by with bridges over I-20. There must be some other long range planning reason but I’ve never gotten an answer when I’ve asked. The only somewhat plausible reason I can come up with is a future plan to extend Center along the airport’s west side … but that doesn’t seem to get to anything but another east west road (Green Oaks) which you can already get to from Matlock or Collins.

      Collins already connects directly to the Entertainment District. The Highlands are easily accessible from Matlock or Collins via Arbrook as is Medical Center of Arlington via Mayfield and Downtown via Abram.

      The only other reason I can think of is long range to develop Center as another commercial road which we don’t need.

      1. Well, I believe there is some hope or expectation of commercial development in the area near the airport. But whatever the reason for the bridge across I-20, the fact is that there is no access to I-20 at that point, and the argument for one way streets is not strengthened by reference to I-20.

        1. Why Center St Bridge?

          To help understand “Why Center St Bridge?”, I suggest using Google Maps (satellite view) and then Google street view, at the corner of I-20 and Osprey, just east of the Center St bridge. That view, dated January 2018, shows 65 acres for sale on that SE corner. The SW corner has a gas well production pad on it so likely it won’t ever be for sale for surface development. Same goes for a second production pad a little further south on west side of Osprey.

          Tarrant Appraisal District shows parts of this undeveloped area are owned variously by City of Arlington (airport properties), Bell Helicopter (test area at airport), Total (natural gas well sites) and at least one owned by a real estate development company. Some of these tracts adjoining I-20’s frontage road are likely designated as commercial and may have changed ownership several times over the past 1 or 2 decades, with each subsequent owner wishing and waiting (and lobbying) for a Center St bridge.

          From about 1999 until 2006, I attended almost all city council meetings (afternoon and evening) and several times I heard testimony about interest in constructing a Center St bridge “someday” to open up future development along the south side of I-20. That was back when the City still had dreams of the I-20 corridor becoming a “technical business center”, before car dealerships began to spread from Cooper to Collins along the south side of I-20, and well before the Highlands Mall was built on the north side.

          In more recent years, I remember Council and Staff promoting both Center St bridges (I-20 and I-30) as being very important, not only because they would provide quick access to and from downtown Arlington, especially on Cowboys and Rangers game days and events, but also because traffic from both directions on Center would be funneled into downtown, where they had visions of “a real downtown”.

  2. I agree

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