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Council Approves Funds For Two-Way Street Design

City planners are moving along with plans to convert some downtown streets from one-way to two-way.

A Louisville Metro Council committee on Tuesday voted unanimously to accept a $175,000 funding allocation from the state's transportation cabinet to begin the design phase of the street conversion process.

The funding will allow planners to study the feasibility and design aspects necessary to convert portions of a handful of downtown streets, said Dirk Gowin, engineering project coordinator with the city's public works department.

The notion of adding more two-way streets in the downtown area comes on the heels of the release of the city's long range transportation plan, which calls for less one-way streets.

Gowin said the streets being considered for two-way conversion include portions of Jefferson Street, Liberty Street, Chestnut Street, Shelby Street, Campbell Street, 8th Street and 7th Street.

"Our first priority is 7th and 8th street," he said.

A bulk of the conversion on streets spanning east to west will be focused on areas east of Interstate 65 on-ramps, Gowin said. Those sections will be prioritized once construction is complete on the Ohio River Bridges Project, he said.

The conversions are being considered for two reasons, Gowin said.

"For businesses and for visitors to the city," he said.

Two-way streets in the central business district can streamline access to storefronts and can help tourists more effectively navigate downtown, he said.

Despite the unanimous vote, some council members expressed concern about the conversion process.

Councilwoman Marianne Butler, a Democrat representing District 15, said she's concerned about each of the proposed street conversions. She's worried when one-way streets are converted to two-way the pinch to directional traffic lanes can cause delays.

"I'm not sure how we can balance the traffic, the different modes of transportation and still be sustainable without cars sitting through two or three turns at a red light during morning and afternoon rush hours," she said.

And councilman Stuart Benson, a Republican from District 20, said his concerns focus on the potential back up that will come when left-turning vehicles have to wait for oncoming traffic to clear before proceeding.

"I need some more information to be able to convey to other people that what we're doing is something that will make things better," he said.

Gowin dismissed the notion of added traffic backup due to the street conversions.

"There's nothing here that I think that's going to lead to a lot of congestion," he said. "I can assure that."

The design phase should be completed by mid-summer, Gowin said. Implementation of the design won't begin until next spring.

Jacob Ryan is the managing editor of the Kentucky Center for Investigative reporting. He's an award-winning investigative reporter who joined LPM in 2014. Email Jacob at jryan@lpm.org.

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