A trend has developed among urban planners in recent years to convert one-way streets to two-way streets. There are a variety of reasons that include safety and promotion of downtown businesses. And there are a large number of sources promoting both that are available by simply Googling on the Internet.
Given Ardmore's desire for growth, there was a study conducted on the subject in 2011. The Active Living Workshop was performed by Dan Burden, executive director of the Walkable and Livable Communities Institute. Burden assessed the city and made recommendations, which included the downtown area.
The recommendation was to convert key streets of Main Street and Broadway back to two-way street operations in stages, starting with city-controlled streets. The study said the original reason to convert the streets to speed up traffic was counter-productive to reclaiming and rebuilding the heart of the community. It also said, in time, the elimination of the one-way streets do much to heal the ill effects of induced speed to the downtown.
Other recommendations were to reduce lane widths, pedestrian obstructions such as garbage cans, utility poles, and misaligned and decaying sidewalks, and upgrade intersections.
Many of the other recommendations included, in some facet, improvements connected with a two-way street. And based on that, opportunities to give the downtown a facelift and create a hospitable environment for both visitors and residents were provided. And more than one community has seen its downtown businesses prosper through the transformation to two lanes.
In recent months, Iowa City, Iowa, and Scottsdale, Ariz., have looked at both sides of the issue for the same reason: to benefit business owners. Iowa City has converted a couple of streets and seen success, and Scottsdale experimented with a one-way street to alleviate congestion for its businesses.
"The benefit of having two-way streets is it slows traffic and gives people the opportunity to see what's downtown," said Julie Patterson, executive director for the Main Street Authority. "It makes things more merchant friendly."
Patterson also said that with the current set-up, there are creative ways to make the downtown more friendly to people, such as creating more crosswalks to slow down traffic and examining some alternate uses for the center lanes. She attended a Better Block Team conference in Tulsa where ideas were discussed to maximize downtown space through re-engineering.
"Our downtown is unique in what it is," she said. "I do wish we could have more seating downtown and find creative ways to provide seating downtown."
Downtown businesses are limited in what they can do, as five feet of sidewalk must be clear for pedestrians through the American Disabilities Act, which would call for creative ways to expand space.
The idea of two-way streets has been discussed within the confines of City Hall. And the prospects are surrounded by a sizeable financial investment. Starting with the signal lights.
"You would have to change all the signals around, add poles and the components," said Bruce Cypert, Ardmore street superintendent. "It would be very expensive, about $100,000 an intersection, and we are looking at seven. The state would also have to be involved, because Broadway is a state highway. And where Broadway and G Street come together, it would have to be reworked and add a signal. It would be more than $100,000."
Neither Cypert nor city engineer Wayne Busma were certain when the city converted its streets from two-way to one-way.
"This came up a while back when we were in discussion with ODOT (Oklahoma Department of Transportation) on how it got divided," Busma said. "The city took up maintenance of Main Street, and ODOT took Broadway. I have asked people around here when it happened. I think it was before the 1970s, but I get conflicting stories from people. I have no records, and ODOT can't find the agreements."
Busma said to convert to two-way would be problematic at best, and would have consequences that might not necessarily benefit downtown merchants.
"The parking on the north side would all have to be redone and angle the opposite way," he said. "And the islands would have to be redone. It would be expensive to do."
He also said delivery trucks would be put at a disadvantage, as the alleys are unable to handle the size of the vehicles.
"The alleys are a tough place to maneuver, very narrow, and they would be unable to back into any kind of overhead door or anything like that," he said.
Traffic would also be an issue, which is one of the reasons the city moved to a one-way street in the first place. An idea of the congestion could be seen recently with Broadway Street closed to one lane because of a road project.
"It would be more congestive, and I don't think people would like that at all," Busma said. "What we have makes the best use of the situation we have.
"There are a lot of downtowns that have gone one-way with the adjoining street going the opposite way. The amount of traffic, the size of the vehicles and parking make a difference. Parking has been an issue since the 1960s, which was probably a death knell to the downtowns, and probably brought about the malls. To revitalize downtowns, you need to make the best use of what you have."