I’ve been continuously pushing for more information on the conversion of Walker and Hudson Avenues from one-way to two-way corridors.
Most regular readers of OKC Central will recall this discussion began with the realization that when city staff sent a recommended trimmed down list of Project 180 improvements, it eliminated reconstruction of Walker and Hudson Avenues between Robert S. Kerr and NW 6. This isn’t entirely crazy – the stretch of Walker in particular was previously rebuilt as a streetscape just a few years earlier and the majority property owner in the area, Rick Dowell, was fighting the city over tearing it up again.
But when those stretches were cut, the result was that motorists and pedestrians faced two-way, one-way and two-way traffic configurations on two of downtown’s busiest streets.
I’ve been hitting city staff with some tough questioning on all of this ever since Public Works Director Eric Wenger confirmed this was the case, and that the completion of Walker and Hudson Avenues to two-way traffic were left as unfunded, unscheduled projects.
When you put this into the historic perspective of Public Works having been instructed by the city council to begin these two-way conversions a dozen years ago, well, how could one not wonder about the indefinite nature of this rescheduling. Even more curious was the decision by city staff to insist the $3 million makeover of Civic Center park was urgent and had to be done this year while taking a far more relaxed approach to Hudson and Walker Avenues.
I’ve talked to business owners and those associated with two of downtown’s most popular destinations along these streets (including the Myriad Gardens and Memorial), and this hasn’t gone over so well with them.
After the initial round of posts and stories on this matter, I pondered the explanation from Wenger that the city had money for traffic control settings for the remaining conversion of Walker Avenue to two-way traffic, but not for the traffic lights. This got me to questioning: why not use some of the perfectly good traffic lights being removed from streets that are being or have been rebuilt as part of Project 180?
This got a response of “yes,” the city does have that option. Then I was informed that money did exist within Project 180 to complete the conversion of Walker Avenue with the current street project – all the way to NW 6.
This left Hudson Avenue as still a two-way, one-way, two-way corridor for the foreseeable future. I was told that this project could not be done as easily as Walker Avenue due to egress questions from properties along Hudson (this was originally cited to me as well as a problem with Walker Avenue). But in surveying aerial photos, I asked, how was this corridor any different in terms of egress than any other downtown? I was then told the concern was mostly related to the county parking garage. I couldn’t get a lot of further explanation as to why this garage’s egress issues were any different from those with the Santa Fe Garage or the Sheridan-Walker Garage. And either way, what was the reasoning behind deeming a $3 million, cosmetic makeover of Bicentennial Park more urgent than completion of Hudson Avenue as a two-way street?
I think we’re getting to the end of this questioning with the latest response. Before we cap this off, let me state what I’ve observed: by and large, the folks I know who work in city planning, public works, finance and administration are all hard-working and generally honest civil servants. It also appears that the combination of Project 180, MAPS 3, the ongoing wrap-up of MAPS for Kids and some unprecedented opportunities for public/private efforts to boost urban core redevelopment, and citywide employment and retail have city staff working as hard as ever – and yet with less manpower to handle that much workload than in prior years due to cutbacks when the economy crashed.
Several key, seasoned and skilled folks at City Hall, meanwhile, have either retired (Jim Thompson), left into private employment but are still working on city projects (Cathy O’Connor and Laura Story), or died way too soon (Mark Carelton).
And that’s that, so to say. And with all this said and done, the latest information coming out is this: city staff are now saying Hudson “hopefully” will be completed on the same track as the fifth package of improvements under Project 180 are completed (set for later this year):
Was there a conscientious decision to eliminate 2-way conversion of Hudson Avenue in favor of Bicentennial Park? Why was the park deemed more important than the two-way conversion?
We never had discussions weighing Hudson versus Bicentennial Park. Our plan is to eventually convert one-way downtown streets to two-way. Hudson is in the conversion plan but not funded as a part of Project 180. We hope to complete the conversion of Hudson from Robert S. Kerr to 6th street by the time we finish Project 180 Package 5 which includes Hudson north to Robert S. Kerr.
(answer compiled and provided by Brent Bryant, who oversees economic development at the city manager’s office)
Really want to thank Austin Willett for sending me a link to this video last night. The music is by local band The Non. The photos were captured from the web cam at www.okctalk.com. Great work!