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:
- 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.
- 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.
- 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?
- 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:
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.