Timeliness, outreach drive road conversions

A vehicle crosses 1st Street SE and drives the wrong way down a one-way section of 2nd Avenue SE in Cedar Rapids on Sunday, Jun. 25, 2017. City officials would like to speed up one-way to two-way street conversions in downtown Cedar Rapids. (Stephen Mally/The Gazette)
A vehicle crosses 1st Street SE and drives the wrong way down a one-way section of 2nd Avenue SE in Cedar Rapids on Sunday, Jun. 25, 2017. City officials would like to speed up one-way to two-way street conversions in downtown Cedar Rapids. (Stephen Mally/The Gazette)

Changes to Cedar Rapids’ downtown and surrounding districts have been a point of interest in our community for some time, and for very good reason.

We understand the frustration of residents and business owners on the disjointed one-way/two-way system.

We will be the first to agree with you. We are on track to have a majority of the downtown system converted to two-way traffic by the end of 2018, as planned. We also continue to look at ways we can speed up the course of construction while ensuring we are not simply “slapping paint down.”

This summer, work will begin on Second, Fourth and Fifth avenues in the downtown core. We’ve invested design time on integrating improvements that will greatly benefit the final product — including storm sewer, sidewalks with ADA accessibility and decorative brick pavers. We’ve also conducted very intentional outreach to the businesses most impacted in order to respond to design requests before construction begins. The design plans now include a new mid-block pedestrian crosswalk on Fourth Avenue, which will provide a safe connection from Greene Square to the Cedar Rapids Public Library once completed.

With the railroad agreements now in place, this winter we will start to see the much anticipated crossing arms and safety gates installed at the railroad crossings on Second, Fourth and Fifth avenues. We have been working closely with Union Pacific to coordinate modifications of these railroad lights. Their installation is the prerequisite to re-stripe the roadway for two-way traffic, which we will complete in the spring or summer of 2018 on those avenues.

While staff works to combine projects as much as possible, sometimes it makes sense to move ahead on things for the greater benefit of the public. To that end, we will be pushing up the timeline to convert Fifth Avenue SE, from downtown to Wellington Heights. Original plans called for this conversion to take place during a future Paving for Progress project. We believe, in this instance, it makes more sense to complete the conversion portion now and help get us closer to a more consistent two-way network. Residents will see this conversion take place this month.

Our desire is for quality. Our desire is for timeliness. And, our desire is for transparency. Outreach to the public will continue, even as necessary changes are made or timelines are adjusted.

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Residents can learn more about the two-way conversions and a schedule of upcoming public meetings on the city’s website.

• Jen Winter is Cedar Rapids public works director. Comments: Traffic@cedar-rapids.org

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