A committee of the Urban County Council heard more Tuesday about a $490,000 traffic study to convert one-way streets to two-way, but the committee took no action on a recommendation to pursue two-way streets on the city's north side.
The study 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 now, said Tom Creasey, a project manager for Stantec, which oversaw the study.
Creasey told the council's Planning and Public Safety Committee on Tuesday that the study focused on three areas: from Main Street north to Fourth Street; the downtown core of Main and Vine; and the southern area that includes High and Maxwell streets.
The northern portions of Limestone, Upper, Short and West Second could be converted to two-way streets without significant impact on traffic except in some key areas, Creasey said. Short Street near the Opera House and the area around Sayre and Lexington Traditional Magnet schools on North Limestone probably would need further study.
Converting the city's two main arteries — Main and Vine — to two-way would be problematic. Traffic patterns will be difficult to predict until Oliver Lewis Way is completed, the study said. Additionally, Main and Vine are controlled by the state, city officials said Tuesday.
Conversion to two-way streets on the city's south side, involving Maxwell and High streets, would be tricky because of traffic associated with the University of Kentucky. Creasey said traffic modeling showed extreme backups in some areas around the university if some of those streets were converted to two-way.
It would cost about $1 million to convert North Limestone, North Upper, Short and West Second streets, Creasey said.
"There would still be a lot of things that would have to be worked out," Creasey said. "Capacity is not an issue."
But to move forward with the proposal, city officials recommended doing additional design work on those northern streets. It's not clear how much the design work will cost.
Jamie Emmons, chief of staff for Mayor Jim Gray, said city officials will return to the council with a cost estimate.
Some members of the council said during Tuesday's meeting they were not comfortable moving forward with two-way streets until hearing more about the problems surrounding the Opera House and around Sayre and Lexington Traditional Magnet schools.
"I would like to see those issues addressed before we authorize additional money," said Vice Mayor Steve Kay, who lives near LTMS.
Councilwoman Shevawn Akers said although there have been several public meetings about the two-way street study, she thought that everyone on those streets affected — North Limestone, North Upper, Short, and West Second — should be notified by letter of the plans to convert the streets to two-way.
"I think we should do that first and get real public input and feedback before we do anything else," Akers said.
Several people spoke in favor of converting the north side streets to two-way, saying it would improve safety and pedestrian access, slow down traffic and make that area of downtown more vibrant.
Richard Young, executive director of the North Limestone Community Development Corporation, has an office on North Limestone and Seventh streets.
"I see people driving, at least two or three times a day, the wrong way up Limestone," Young said. "I've seen several families pushing strollers almost get hit by cars."
Young said many people in the North Limestone corridor support the plan but cautioned that it is difficult to tell how everyone in the neighborhood feels. Keeping on-street parking will be key, several people also said.
"People want it to be a two-way street as long as there is parking," Young said.
Emmons said after Tuesday's meeting that it's not clear whether the proposal for design for conversion to two-way streets on the north side will make it into the proposed budget for the fiscal year that begins July 1. It's possible that the council could approve funds for the design in October or November. That's when the council will make decisions on spending any surplus funds from the fiscal year that ends June 30.