By Rebecca Flannery
City planners in downtown Waco have proposed to change some downtown streets from their current one-way layouts to two-way, hoping to foster a sense of community activity.
Christopher Evilia, member of the Waco Metropolitan Planning Organization, said a study was conducted to rethink downtown streets, at the recommendation of downtown merchants and the Greater Waco Chamber of Commerce, in recent months. Specifically, Evilia said Franklin and Washington Avenue will be taken into consideration before other streets.
“Basically, our goal is to reinvent downtown,” Evilia said. “One-way streets create an uncomfortable environment for pedestrians, and therefore commerce.”
Evilia said in respect to new game day procedures downtown, changing streets from one-way to two-way will aid transportation and commerce.
“One-way streets are meant to move a large volume of traffic though an area quickly, not to encourage new developments,” Evilia said.
Chris McGowan, director of urban development at Greater Waco Chamber, said the redirection of streets is part of a 2009 plan called Imagine Waco. The plan was implemented in conjunction with several foundations in downtown Waco and is responsible for strengthening downtown activity.
“Projects underway and planned, from Waco Town Square to new student housing, hotel reinvestment, river development and public improvements, will create a new energy in the downtown area that, if strategically leveraged, will stimulate new private investment and a strengthening downtown core,” according to the Imagine Waco website.
McGowan said the transportation aspect of Imagine Waco always considered redirecting street traffic on Franklin and Washington Avenues.
“One of the major components of Imagine Waco was transportation needs of downtown, and a piece of that was Franklin Avenue and a transit study,” McGowan said.
Evilia said this isn’t the first time Downtown Waco has redirected street directions. He said eight years ago, a different transit study was conducted to convert both 11th and 12th streets.
“Each of these streets are operating below their capacity,” Evilia said. “Both streets are accumulating 30 percent of volume they could actually accommodate in their current configuration.”
In addition, Evilia said changing one-way streets to two-way would help people get across town much more quickly, and would therefore create a more attractive view of Waco transportation services.
“Coming from one end of town to the other could take you two hours,” Evilia said. “We’d like to cut that in half, and that would be more attractive for game days. It’s going to help make it easier for pedestrians to get from point A to point B and provide a more viable option for people to use the transit system.”
Evilia said the process could take up to a couple years to finish, but the next step in the process will be to conduct another transportation study to outline how the project will be implemented.
“We need to see how signals will operate, lane markings will change and figure out if we have enough room to have more lanes and parking options,” Evilia said. “We also need a round of input from citizens, to know whether this is good, bad or otherwise.”