It’s not something many of us have to think about very often, but you might still be interested to learn that there’s a growing movement against one-way streets in major cities all over the country. Originally built in dense urban centers as a method of ostensibly speeding up traffic flow by consolidating it in a single direction per road, traffic engineers and urban planning types are no longer so sure they help at all — but don’t get me wrong, the issue is far from settled.
Critics claim that one-way streets might actually harm downtown livability by complicating routes, blocking easy access to businesses, and tripping up inexperienced drivers — and to be absolutely fair, I’d be lying if I said I hadn’t pulled a few U-turns of Shame shortly after hanging a left in the wrong direction somewhere around Ninth Street.
Keeping this in mind, it’s interesting to hear that the city plans to convert sections of two one-way streets in downtown Austin to accommodate two-way traffic, with work starting later this summer: East Fifth Street between Brazos Street and I-35; and Colorado Street between Cesar Chavez and Ninth Streets. Here’s a map to give you a better idea of the area:
Have you ever accidentally gone the wrong way on one of these streets? Probably.
One-way streets were originally introduced downtown in the 1970s, with the debate over their utility seemingly showing up around the same time.
Since then, a few of the original streets have seen conversion back to two-way traffic — for example, it’s easy to forget that a large downtown section of Cesar Chavez was one-way headed east until a conversion in 2008, and five blocks of Brazos Street between Sixth and Cesar Chavez Streets converted for two-way traffic in 2015.
The Colorado Street conversion particularly seems like a no-brainer with the emergence of the intersecting 2nd Street District, but we’ll be interested to see how the East Fifth Street changes impact the surrounding area. The city has also described Seventh and Eighth Streets as good candidates for a potential conversion sometime in the future, and two-way Fifth and Colorado Streets might be a sign that the ball’s already rolling.
The city will host open house meetings regarding the conversions on July 19th for East Fifth Street, and July 26th for Colorado Street. The description claims the purpose of the meetings is to “discuss the project and respond to any questions and concerns,” but it seems like our planners have already made up their minds.