More catching up….
Some of you will recall how shortfalls in Project 180 led to the decision, or rather, indecision, by city engineers to go only part of the way in the conversions of Walker and Hudson Avenues from one-way to two-way traffic. As all the dust kicked up by all this began to settle, I realized that the city was essentially going turn both streets (and had already done so with Walker) into two-way, one-way, two-way corridors between Reno Avenue and NW 13.
This discussion began with Public Works director Eric Wenger. But oh my, this discussion has had quite the evolution…
On Feb. 8 I posted the following on OKC Central:
Going through an extensive project update with Public Works director Eric Wenger, I learned the city still has money for traffic controllers for these intersections, but no money for the actual traffic lights.
Wenger said a study not yet done will determine a new timeline and potential funding. Note that the city council instructed the public works department to begin a study to convert downtown’s one-way streets to two-way traffic back in 1999. History shows that at City Hall, a study can translate into a years-long delay (consider the progress to date on a quiet zone on the railway tracks parallel to Automobile Alley).
What this means is the plan now in place would result in Walker Avenue being two-way traffic south of Robert S. Kerr Avenue, one-way traffic between Robert S. Kerr Avenue and NW 6, and then two-way traffic again north of NW 6. Ditto for Hudson Avenue.
Councilman Ed Shadid, a reader of OKC Central, checked on this for himself with city engineers and responded the next day:
I am grateful for your work; your questions are critical to the process.
I believe this Council is strongly committed to the goals outlined in the 1999 T.E.C. study as well as Jeff Speck’s recommendations that these streets be converted to 2-way.
The barriers to implementation go beyond traffic signaling (of which the City does have enough traffic poles and traffic lights in storage if and when we were to need them).
As you state, the sections between Kerr and 6th are not part of P180 or the ’07 Bond issue and will need to be dealt with by the City in house.
Perhaps the greatest barrier is that so many driveway designs along Walker and Hudson have taken advantage of the 1-way street design to make them oblique. Surveys need to be completed to assess which driveways would need to be straightened out to make them perpendicular to the new 2-way street. In addition, restriping would need to be done. Many of these driveways are owned by the County. The obstacles on Hudson are worse than they are on Walker.
Additional funding will be necessary to complete the downtown master plan but prior to that we need to survey those areas and study the geometry and design of 2-way streets in those areas.
The conversion of 2-way streets up to Kerr is still some time away. The conversion between Main to Couch will occur by the end of the year and the conversion from Couch to Kerr will occur after that, possibly into the beginning of 2013.
Obviously, this didn’t quite match up with what I had been told – at least it seemed to hint that Walker Avenue wasn’t as indefinite as I had been led to believe. I then got a call from Assistant City Manager Dennis Clowers, himself the former public works director. And I posted the following update:
Assistant City Manager Dennis Clowers just called me. They’re aware of this conversation. Clowers was the former public works director and that department is one of several that answer to him.
He said the city “has every intention” of finishing the conversion of Hudson and Walker to two-way traffic. But, he added, “it’s not just going to happen overnight.”
He repeated what was apparently told to Ed Shadid. I challenged him on the studies, noting studies began a dozen years ago. I asked, what is more urgent – a cosmetic makeover of the Civic Center park or the safety and function of Hudson and Walker Avenues?
At this point Dennis, who I do respect greatly, acknowledged this matter may not have been addressed with the diligence it deserves. He acknowledged the two-way, one-way, two-way pattern will be less safe for visitors than what we had before. He said city staff is going to get on top of this, and that this matter will be addressed with the same urgency being given to the park.
For downtown businesses, development of the urban core, consultants have determined street traffic patterns can make or break economic development.
More conversations ensued as I shared with readers how the city council had tasked the public works department with converting the one-way downtown streets a dozen years earlier. I posted the following on Feb. 10:
As noted by frequent OKC Central contributor Dennis Wells in a comment on yesterday’s blog post, the city has shifted its response on the street conversions. Assistant City Manager Dennis Clowers reports that the Project 180 contract will include money for complete conversion of Walker Avenue to two-way traffic after all – and that it will be done this year.
Clowers reports no change in plans, however, for Hudson Avenue. More studies and evaluations on funding, etc., are said to be needed before the section between Robert S. Kerr Avenue and NW 6 can be converted to two-way traffic. This means visitors are likely to encounter a two-way, one-way, two-way traffic pattern along the street from Interstate 40 to NW 6 until the city addresses this matter. I will remind readers, the city council instructed the public works department to begin conversions of one-way downtown streets to two-way traffic in 1999 – which was 13 years ago.
So what’s new?
The city council was provided an update on this whole matter on Tuesday. They saw in a black-and-white power point a schedule that now promises that both Hudson and Walker will be fully converted to two-way traffic by late 2012. When quizzed, City Manager Jim Couch reported no further studies are needed, and indeed, bond monies and surplus traffic signals and poles are available to make these full conversions possible without any further delays.
He also reported a similar gap along Robinson Avenue – one I admit sort of escaped my attention – will be addressed on the same timetable.
Watch the report here: