Newspaper article THE JOURNAL RECORD

OKC Losing One-Way Streets Downtown

Newspaper article THE JOURNAL RECORD

OKC Losing One-Way Streets Downtown

Article excerpt

A major city planning tradeoff is under way as downtown Oklahoma City continues to lose its one-way streets.

The last vestiges of an outdated attitude toward inner-city traffic flow will disappear by the end of this year as more Project 180 streetscaping is phased in, City Engineer Eric Wenger told City Council members this week. Not all one-way street conversions were incorporated in the scope of Project 180, but city staff planned the final conversions to coincide with other work to avoid additional traffic disruptions.

The next section planned is Walker Avenue from Main Street to Sixth Street at City Hall. It will be opened to two-way traffic a block at a time, Wenger said.

Decades ago city officials crisscrossed the downtown district with one-way streets with the intent of speeding up traffic flow to more efficiently move people between work and home, Wenger said. At about the same time, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers realigned the North Canadian River - a stretch of which is now called the Oklahoma River - to a simple canal, also in the name of efficiency. But a few years ago, Oklahoma City leaders decided a slightly less efficient design in some ways would be better for development overall.

David Morley, a researcher with the American Planners Association, said the conversion trend is now common in downtown areas across the country. The decision depends on the community's goals. Some cities are trying to revitalize districts, much like Oklahoma City.

"It's naturally that over time we engineer solutions to one problem without understanding that we've just created a new problem," he said. "Eliminating congestion downtown has unintended consequences - you may have had a lot of people walking around downtown, and then you notice they've disappeared.

"Motorists are not always as enthusiastic, but business owners get more drive-by traffic," Morley said. …

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