Portion of Downtown Avenue Changing to Two Way Traffic, More Could Follow

By Dave Franzman, Reporter

CEDAR RAPIDS, Iowa - The "one way" signs are coming down soon on another small chunk of 2nd Avenue S.E. near downtown Cedar Rapids.

A three-block section of 2nd Avenue between 10th Street and 7th Street S.E. will convert from one way to two way traffic approximately the week of May 13th. Reasons for the change include both allowing fire trucks to enter the new Cedar Rapids main fire station now under construction and to allow direct access for I-380 traffic to the newly-opened PCI Medical Mall.

But several members of the Cedar Rapids City Council say this latest change could be just the beginning. A number of council members appear ready to consider two way traffic on all the streets downtown.

There is work to do before this small section of 2nd Avenue S.E. is ready for two way traffic. Crews are currently finishing a median that will separate traffic near the medical mall. It will also take time to change marking stripes on the roadway and turn on new stop lights.

Craig Hanson, Cedar Rapids Public Works Maintenance Manager, said compared to the public flap that accompanied the closing of 2nd Avenue for the medical mall, this should be nothing.

"This is a smaller area and it has a lot lower traffic volume currently. So we wouldn't expect a major number of calls to come in over this," Hanson said.

District 2 Council representative Monica Vernon said making the busiest avenues, 2nd and 3rd, all two way traffic probably wouldn't come up for council consideration for a year or two. Years ago, business interests downtown brought up the idea of converting all streets to two way traffic. But the idea was quickly rejected. Vernon said times have changed.

"I think our message was let's look at all the one ways because there is so much evidence of increased safety—not only to pedestrians and bicyclists but also motorists when you don't have really wide open one ways," Vernon said.

Another council member, Scott Olson of District 4, agreed times have changed and the proposal that was rather controversial years ago may not be so now.

"We do have adequate width in the streets to make them two way and parking and so I just think there's a greater sense politically, greater support from city staff, that it's ok," Olson said.

Olson said conversations will take time due to cost as much as anything else. Every railroad crossing changed from one way to two way traffic is about a $250,000 expense. There would be other signage and traffic control expenses as well.

Olson said portions of 4th and 5th Avenue S.E. near the restored Ground Transportation Center will also convert to two way streets because of the need of city buses. That change will probably happen sometime in 2014.
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