Changing Direction: Two-way Streets are the Right Way to a More Vibrant Downtown
During his 2019 State of the City address, Lansing Mayor Andy Schor announced the conversion of multiple downtown streets from one-way to two-way. By mid-2020, Capitol Avenue, Grand Avenue, Ottawa Street, Allegan Street, Pine Street and Walnut Street will all become two-way streets.
While in the past, costs to make this change have been prohibitive, the city of Lansing is now able to make this change due to $3.3 million toward the effort from the supplemental appropriations bill that was passed by the Legislature and signed by the governor late last year. The money will go toward new traffic signals and any necessary road changes. In addition to the street updates, some of this money will go toward traffic signals as a part of a pilot program to utilize smart technology to connect traffic signals with automated cars. Roads will also be repaired as a part of the conversion, using funding already designated for road fixes.
As a city resident, Schor knew that one-way streets didn’t contribute to making a city walkable; they were simply ways for cars to get in and out of an area quickly. As mayor, he wants to explore ways to create a downtown where people could live and work, walk and eat.
“Washington Square is great,” he said, “but many streets are just for people getting in and out of the city. So, when funding opened up for this change, we jumped at it.”
When he announced the change on Facebook, Schor stated, “Two-way streets slow down cars, which increases safety of those in the area and provides a more vibrant business climate. Roads like Washington Square and Michigan Avenue have more retail and foot traffic, and are slower and safer. Two-way streets will be a boost our downtown and is supported by many of the existing businesses and residents of the downtown.”
Two-way streets also let drivers pay attention to the stores and businesses on either side of the road. They make it easier to get out and explore, to stop when they see a coffee place they want to visit or a store they want to try.
The conversion of these streets has been, and will continue to be, a collaboration of many entities across the city. The mayor worked with the Michigan Department of Transportation to evaluate which streets were the best to convert from one-way to two-way. In order to implement the change, Public Service Director Andy Kilpatrick will be working with city staff and MDOT to create a plan to convert the streets. To keep those living in the area apprised of the change, Department of Neighborhoods and Citizen Engagement Director Andi Crawford will be creating a plan to alert the public and communicate with those living over the businesses in the downtown area. While many businesses have already shown support for the change, many more conversations will take place to prepare those in the area for the change.
The change supports the mayor’s Lansing Forward initiative, outlined in his State of the City speech. The initiative focuses on three key areas: livability, neighborhoods and safety, and effective designs to move the city forward. The roads conversion, said Schor, meets all three of those areas.
“We need to design Lansing to make it the best possible city we can, somewhere that helps out those living there,” he said.
Plans to get the word out about the change will begin to materialize over the next few months and the actual conversion should only take a long weekend to complete.
The feedback on the change has been mostly positive, according to the mayor. While changes like this will always face some hesitation, he noted, “The residents in the city understand it will be good for the city and the people that live, work and walk around there.”