Vine Street Partially Converting to One-Way for Parking Garage Traffic
If you’ve visited the northern end of Downtown during a busy weekend, you’ve likely sat in a traffic bottleneck at some point this summer. Between convention-goers, gallery-hoppers, sports-fans, market-shoppers, office workers, new residents and other visitors, the area can get fairly congested on days where multiple events overlap.
To alleviate some of this congestion, the Columbus Department of Public Services will begin the process of converting the two-way stretch of Vine Street between Front Street and High Street into a one-way east-bound street. In response to the change, the section of Wall Street between Vine and Spruce will reverse to run one-way north-bound, and Spruce will reverse to run one-way west-bound between High and Front. A bonus for visitors to the area will be the addition of seven new parking meters installed on Vine Street.
“In the cases of these streets, our traffic engineers are making these changes to improve the flow of traffic,” said Rick Tilton, Assistant Director at The Department of Public Service for The City of Columbus. “We see a lot of congestion at the Vine Street parking garage, directly across from the North Market parking lot. With the new configuration, we will have one lane of Vine Street going in and out of the garage, and one lane going through to High Street.”
According to Tilton, the street changes were requested by the Convention Center and The North Market through a petitioning process. At least sixty percent of adjacent property owners must sign off on the petition, which was achieved. No other public input or community feedback was needed for the change to be made.
“We don’t require it,” said Tilton.
A public relations email was sent the morning of September 3, 2013 by the Department of Public Service, notifying residents, stakeholders, and community members that changes would begin September 15, less than two weeks of the notice.
While switching Vine into a one-way street should benefit automobile traffic flow, these types of conversions often run the risk of sacrificing pedestrian safety and access, which the neighboring North Market relies upon for weekend farmers markets and festivals.
Peggy Outcalt, Director of Operations at the North Market, said that they weren’t involved in originally spearheading this effort, but hopes that the benefits will improve the customer experience.
“The process was initiated by the Columbus Convention Center, but I don’t consider it a detriment to the North Market,” said Outcalt. “Would we have initiated this effort? Probably not. But we didn’t oppose it either.”
The mid-twentieth-century conversion of Downtown’s two-way streets into one-way feeders is something that Columbus Mayor Michael Coleman has been proactive in reversing over the past decade. Gay Street is the most prominent example of a newer one-to-two-way conversion, but other conversions include portions of Front Street, Town Street, Main Street, and Civic Center Drive, with plans for similar treatments on stretches of Marconi Boulevard near the riverfront, and Town and Rich Streets in Franklinton.
“The Mayor has always been a proponent of two way traffic,” said Dan Williamson, Director of Communications for the Mayor’s Office. “His concern is that we have too many Downtown streets operating as highways to get people out of Downtown as quickly as possible. But these streets are different, because they’re small streets… almost alleyways. We’re not creating high speed traffic for people to get out of Downtown.”
Jennifer Davis, Marketing and Communications Manager at the Greater Columbus Convention Center, agrees that conversion has a different goal in mind.
“We definitely have a vested interest, but this will be a great benefit for everyone in the neighborhood,” she states. “We tested the traffic pattern changes temporarily during the Arnold Weekend this year and it worked out well. That’s when we thought about making it more permanent, and it seems to make sense to nearly everyone in the area.”
The permanent changes will begin taking place the week of September 15th. According to the Department of Public Service, the weather-dependent work isn’t likely to take longer than a week, as it only requires asphalt re-striping and signage changes. The new and improved Vine, Wall, and Spruce streets will be functional by the end of the month.
Additional information can be found online at publicservice.columbus.gov.