Designs begin for one-way street conversions in Cedar Rapids

Move aims to make downtown more friendly to pedestrians, bicylists

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CEDAR RAPIDS — The end is in sight for the hodgepodge of one-way and two-way streets in downtown Cedar Rapids.

City officials are working with Anderson Bogert, a Cedar Rapids engineering firm, to eliminate one-way segments in the downtown area with construction over the next two years. Details of some of the plans were unveiled Wednesday during open houses at the Cedar Rapids Public Library.

“I think it is needed,” said Asa Batey, 19, of Cedar Rapids. “Not only will it improve traffic flow, but it also will make downtown more vibrant.”

That is the idea behind the traffic pattern changes.

Matt Myers, a Cedar Rapids traffic engineer, said the heavy traffic flows that once necessitated wide, multiple lane streets and the one-way pattern no longer exist. Stops signs in most cases are sufficient to handle the number of vehicles.

Culturally, preferences have shifted and so has the use of downtown from simply a workplace to one where people live and work. Residents and city leaders want a more multimodal downtown where cars don’t pose threats to people walking or biking.

“We are expecting people to come in and walk to their destinations,” Myers said.

City officials hope the traffic pattern changes slow down traffic and make downtown more friendly to pedestrians and cyclists, which in turn improves the experience of shopping at local business or accessing amenities, such as the library or theaters.

“They are taking this opportunity to do a number of pedestrian improvements,” said William Bauer, a project engineer for Anderson Bogert.

Along Third, Fourth and Fifth avenues, several improvements are planned to make a seamless walkway from the Cedar Rapids Museum of Art, across Greene Square, to the Cedar Rapids library. In other cases, sidewalk bumpouts are being planned to shorten the distance of crossing the street and ramps are being added so the sidewalks are more accessible.

“There will be a period of adjustment, but once it os all done and we are done with all the headaches of construction, I think it will be more easy to use and usable to the people of downtown,” said Sean Ulmer, executive director of the Museum of Art.

Five one-way to two-way street conversion projects are slated to be complete by the end of the 2018 and most are multifaceted, including bike lanes, storm sewer improvements and upgrades for pedestrians, according to plans from the Cedar Rapids traffic department.

The conversion plans are:

— Second and Third avenues SW from Sixth Street SW to Fifth Avenue SW. This includes upgrading traffic signals on Sixth Street SW and bike lanes. It is planned for 2017. A cost estimate has not yet been determined.

— Second Avenue SE from First to Seventh streets SE. This includes pavement rehabilitation, pedestrian sidewalk bumpouts, sidewalk ramp improvements, possible traffic signal removal at Second, Third, and Fifth streets, traffic signal upgrades at Seventh and Eighth streets, bike lanes and railroad crossing arms and gates. This is planned for 2017 and 2018. Estimated cost is $1.37 million.

— Fourth and Fifth avenues SE from Third to Fifth streets SE. This includes an asphalt overlay, stormwater improvements, sidewalk bumpouts and bike lanes on Fourth Avenue. This is planned for 2017. Estimated cost is $920,000.

— Second and Third avenues SE from 12th to 19th streets SE. This includes bike lanes, pedestrian improvements and traffic signal modifications. Construction is planned for 2017 and 2018. Estimated cost for the Second Avenue portion is $313,000. The cost for the Third Avenue portion has not yet been determined.

— Third Avenue SE from Third to Eighth streets SE. This includes street rehabilitation, intersection improvements, sidewalk ramps, sidewalk bumpouts, stormwater intakes, possible signal removal at Third Street and Fifth Street, protected bike lanes and parallel parking. Construction is planned for 2018. Estimated cost is $3 million.

In some cases, the total cost estimates include neighboring projects, city officials said.

Beyond 2018, the last downtown conversion project is the Fifth Avenue SE corridor from Fifth to 19th streets SE, which is slated for 2019.

Most of the projects are scheduled to reach the Cedar Rapids City Council for approval this spring, but work wouldn’t begin until the fall and then would spill over to the 2018 construction season, Myers said.

Aside from City Council approval, the conversions — at least across the railroad tracks — hinge on acceptance from Union Pacific. The Omaha-based Union Pacific has been working with city officials on plans, but still must OK final designs. The railroad runs along the Fourth Avenue corridor and intersects with Second Avenue SW, so it would be impacted by virtually every one of the conversion projects.

One specific issues that needs to be addressed is the proximity of parking ramp driveways to the Fourth Avenue railroad corridor, Myers said.

l Comments: (319) 339-3177; brian.morelli@thegazette.com

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