Consultant takes questions about converting one-way streets in Lexington

bfortune@herald-leader.comApril 16, 2013 

A consultant updated Urban County Council members and answered questions Tuesday about the possibility of converting eight one-way streets to two-way streets in downtown Lexington.

Tom Creasey, a civil engineer and project manager with Stantec consulting engineers, fielded questions from the Planning and Public Works Committee about how two-way streets might affect parking, traffic patterns and downtown retail businesses.

Council member Julian Beard asked whether a study by Stantec would provide any insight on where new downtown parking garages should go if any are built. Creasey said the scope of the study does not include a detailed look at new parking garages, although he said they "absolutely" want to be sensitive to parking.

As for street parking, Creasey said, "our objective is where there is now on-street parking, to leave it."

Council member Harry Clarke asked if the study would address the impact that converting to two-way streets would have on retail businesses. Creasey said the study will examine how visibility of businesses located on cross streets is affected.

Stantec engineers have divided the downtown into three areas — the area north of Main Street, the downtown core of Main and Vine, and a southern area that includes High and Maxwell Streets. The engineers opted to do it that way rather than looking at the impact of converting the streets from one end to the other.

Stantec is using computerized traffic modeling to evaluate the impact two-way street conversions would have on many aspects of getting around downtown.

The area north of Main Street was tackled first, he said. "We thought we could get through the north area quicker and with less complexity," Creasey said.

The city, using a $465,000 federal grant, hired Stantec in May to work out detailed plans for converting Main and Vine, Upper and Limestone, Second and Short and Maxwell and High to two-way streets.

Councilman Kevin Stinnett pointed out that this is the third study of two-way streets for downtown, and wanted to know what was different about this one.

A Downtown Master Plan drafted in 2007 by the Washington-based firm Ayers/Saint/Gross, Architects + Planners recommended converting downtown streets to two-way traffic.

In 2009, the council approved having streetscape consultant Clete Benken, along with the design firm of Kinzelman Kline Gossman, do a detailed design of Main and Vine that would eventually allow both to become two-way streets. Also in 2009, the council approved going to two-way traffic.

"I think it's time, once and for all, to make this decision and move on," Stinnett said.

The difference with the Stantec study, Creasey said, is the firm has created computer traffic modeling to show in detail the impact of going to two-way streets, and the cost associated with the change.

Scott Shapiro, senior adviser to Mayor Jim Gray, said another difference with the Stantec study is that "it is designed to look at two-way traffic issues and come up with ways to mitigate them."

Moving forward, Stinnett said, public input and transparency are critical in the discussion. If anything, he said, "we should have overkill."

Stinnett said "it's 50-50" between people who are adamantly against two-way streets and supporters.

"I think we need to be careful we don't pull any surprises," he said.

Beverly Fortune: (859) 231-3251. Twitter: @BFortune2010

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