For at least a decade in Lexington, many locals and a parade of outside consultants have told us that an important first step in making downtown a pedestrian-friendly — which equates to retail business-friendly — place is restoring two-way traffic.
Now, at long last, there's a chance to take that step, in at least part of our city's core. The council should move quickly to make this happen.
Wednesday night, traffic engineers who have been studying how changing to two-way would affect traffic downtown presented their initial findings to the public, and will present them to the Urban County Council's Planning and Public Safety committee on Thursday.
The bottom line: Returning most of streets north of Main Street — Short, West Second, North Limestone and Upper — to two-way traffic would have little downside impact on travel times or congestion. Business and restaurant owners support it; the police prefer it.
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The Lexington Children's Theatre and the Opera House, across the street from each other on Short, are worried about safety and convenience for their patrons under a two-way scenario.
Those are legitimate concerns, particularly when school buses unload dozens of very young children, that can and must be addressed as part of the transition. But they should not stop it.
The engineers suggest leaving the south side of downtown — Maxwell, High, South Upper and Limestone — as they are; and waiting on Main and Vine streets until the Newtown Pike extension reaches Broadway, likely in 2017, to assess traffic conditions then.
We'd like to see that sooner, but accept that waiting may be wiser as major projects — also including the possible construction of the Town Branch Commons — could change the scene for pedestrians, bicyclists and drivers significantly in the next few years.
There's no need to wait on some changes in all the areas that will cost very little and make downtown more inviting and safer for pedestrians.They include:
■ Updating and improving the striping on pedestrian crosswalks so that drivers know to expect walkers and walkers have a clear sense of where they'll be safe.
■ Installing pedestrian-activated traffic signals, like the one on Main Street at the library, at other high-traffic crossings. The first should be on Vine Street at the transit center, where people getting off buses now dart around cars going as fast as 40 miles per hour.
■ Eliminating right turns on red at all intersections downtown, which endanger pedestrians while doing little to improve traffic flow.
■ Eliminating the channelized, unsignaled turns at the confusing intersection of Main, Vine and Midland, which would vastly improve pedestrian safety and have little impact on traffic flow.
This is a subject that has been studied and studied. It's time for action.