Fayette County

Consultant sees no major obstacles to two-way streets on north side of downtown Lexington

A consultant said at a public meeting Wednesday there would be no major obstacles to converting several one-way streets to two-way in the north section of downtown Lexington.

This is because that area has a lower volume of traffic than the downtown core, said Tom Creasey, a civil engineer and project manager with Stantec, consulting engineers.

Creasey focused Wednesday on North Limestone, North Upper Street, Short Street and West Second Street.

However, there are some hot spots that will have to be addressed if the city goes ahead with the conversions. One is the intersection of Limestone and Main Street, where the CentrePointe development could create congestion.

Creasy said another potential problem spot is West Short Street where school buses stop to let children off to go to the Lexington Opera House. And there is North Limestone at the Sayre School campus, and in the next block, at the Lexington Traditional Magnet School. Both spots become congested when school lets out in the afternoon and parents pick up children.

The city, using a $465,000 federal grant, hired Stantec in May 2012 to work out detailed plans for converting Main and Vine, Upper and Limestone, Second and Short, and Maxwell and High to two-way streets.

Creasey presented preliminary findings for the north part of downtown at the first of three public meetings designed to spotlight some of the issues in a two-way conversion, and to get feedback from residents and stakeholders.

About 60 people attended the meeting at Lexington Traditional Magnet School.

The last block of West Fourth Street, between Jefferson and Newtown Pike, will be converted to two-way later this summer as part of a state highway project to make improvements to Newtown Pike near Bluegrass Community and Technical College, and align Georgetown Street with Fourth Street.

However, significant issues exist with converting the last block of West Third Street to two-way because of the railroad tracks near Newtown Pike, Creasey said.

Also, there are problems on East Second and Constitution streets — including a crossing used by Sayre School students to get from one part of the school campus to another — that would create challenges to converting that street to two-way, he said.

Creasey said Stantec was presenting preliminary findings and not recommendations.

Stantec engineers divided downtown into three areas: the area from Main Street north to Fourth Street; the downtown core of Main and Vine; and the south 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.

Only the first zone was discussed Wednesday night.

Stantec is using computerized traffic modeling to evaluate the impact two-way street conversions would have on many aspects of getting around downtown. A computer was set up at the public meeting to show how traffic modeling works.

The area north of Main Street was tackled first, Creasey said, because engineers thought they could get through the north area quicker and with less complexity.

The impact of converting streets include: reduced circuitous traffic patterns, making getting around downtown easier, slightly slower travel speeds, slight higher delays and increased visibility for businesses.

After preliminary findings were presented, people attending the meeting were given small keypads about the size of a playing card. John Ripy, part of the Stantec team, asked about 10 questions. People could vote for the answer they preferred by using their keypad. About 45 people had keypads.

One question asked what people's major concerns were if streets were converted to two-way. The top concerns were increased travel time (17 percent), intersection conflicts (13 percent), gridlock and left-hand turning problems (12 percent).

Results of the survey will be posted at Downtownlexstudy.com in the next couple of days.

The next two meetings have not been scheduled.