The public will have an opportunity Wednesday to hear more about the results of a long-awaited study on whether to convert some of downtown Lexington's one-way streets to two-way.
The study — which cost $490,000 — has concluded that converting one-way streets on the north side is possible, but changing the main downtown streets and one-way streets on the south side to two-way is not feasible, said Chris King, the city's planning director. (See the map below)
The study, paid for with federal transportation grant money, has taken nearly three years to complete. But the debate over downtown traffic flow and converting streets to two-way has been tossed around for years. The Urban County Council began discussions about studying the conversion in 2009.
The study focused on three areas: from Main Street north to Fourth Street, the downtown core of Main and Vine, and the south area that includes High and Maxwell streets.
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All of the streets had two-way traffic at one point. In the 1950s, the police department converted Maxwell, High, Second, Short, Mill and Upper streets to one-way. The switch on Main and Vine streets was made about 20 years later.
The northern portions of Limestone, and Upper, Short and West Second could be converted back to two-way streets without significant impacts on traffic with the exception of some key areas, said King. Short Street near the Opera House probably would need further study because of traffic concerns. So will the area around Sayre and Lexington Traditional Magnet schools on North Limestone.
Converting the city's two main arteries — Main and Vine — to two-way streets would be problematic, King said. Stantec, the study's engineers, proposed various scenarios to convert the streets. But those scenarios would create more traffic delays, King said.
Engineers also discovered it was difficult to make traffic predictions until some key construction projects are completed, King said.
"Before any decision is made we need to see the impact of the completion of Oliver Lewis Way to Broadway," King said.
In addition, Mayor Jim Gray has put $10 million for Town Branch Commons, a linear downtown park, in his $323 million budget proposal. If that project gets approved, it could change traffic patterns, particularly along Vine Street.
Conversion of two-way streets on the city's south side, involving Maxwell and High streets, also would be tricky because of the traffic associated with the city's largest employer and economic generator.
"Because of the unique situations created by the volume of traffic around the University of Kentucky, the delays in that area would be significant," King said the study concluded.
In addition to providing more details about the results of the study, King said Wednesday's public hearing "will have stations set up where people can look at various aspects of the study and leave comments."
The results of the study also will be presented to the Urban County Council this month.