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Wasted Space in Downtown: Old Highway Feeders

Walker Evans Walker Evans
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It’s been over a year since our last installment of “Wasted Space in Downtown“, and this new update is actually a bit of a unique one. Normally we examine some of the existing holes in our downtown streetscape, but today we’re taking looking ahead at some potential wasted space that could be materializing in the not-too-distant future.

Last week, ODOT announced their finalized plans for the 70/71 Split Fix, which includes turning Mound, Fulton, Parsons, and Lester into busy one-way highway feeder streets. What the plan fails to address is what we’re going to do with our old one-way highway feeder streets that include Third, Fourth, Long, and Spring. They will no longer have the direct purpose of shuttling cars in and out of downtown from the 70/71 offramps, since the offramps are moving. So, the big question here is: are we going to let all of that asphalt go to waste?

I’d like to propose that Downtown should reclaim those streets, and restore them into the vibrant, two-way, pedestrian-friendly, complete streets that they once were.

Third and Fourth currently serve as five-lane expressways through the heart of downtown, shuttling rush hour commuters as quickly as possible back and forth to the spaghetti of ramps located on the south end near German Village. Try to imagine both of these streets with unrestricted metered parking available all day, a decorative median similar to what can be found on Gay Street, and quieter sidewalk patio ambiance at places like Mitchell’s, Au Bon Pain, Latitude 41, Dirty Franks, Little Palace, the Starbucks in the Key Bank Building, or newer streetlevel businesses along the Third Street side of a redeveloped City Center.

Long and Spring are also five-lane expressways running east-west through downtown, hurtling cars back and forth to the I-71 ramps on the east side near CCAD and Columbus State. Try to also imagine both of these streets with reduced speeds through the campus area, wider tree-lined sidewalks, and improved aesthetics for patrons of The James Club, Barrio, Rolls, B1 Bicycles, Cook Shack BBQ, and any other number of new businesses that would love to repopulate the vacant storefronts that currently sit empty along these unpleasant stretches of pavement.

View The Split Fix Feeder Fix in a larger map

Alright. Enough romanticizing. To state it again simply, here’s what needs to be done if Downtown is going to have to sacrifice Mound, Fulton, Lester, and Parsons to ODOT as our new highway feeders:

  • Convert Third and Fourth Streets to two way from Nationwide Blvd to the north to Livingston Ave to the south.
  • Convert Long and Spring Streets to two way from Neil Ave to the West to Hamilton Ave to the East.
  • Lift rush hour parking restrictions for on-street meters so that parking is allowed during rush hour, providing people a place to stop to patronize businesses along these streets during all hours of the day.
  • Add medians, planters, dividers, and turn lanes, to visually narrow these streets and keep traffic to slower pedestrian-friendly speeds.
  • Complete the streets with bike racks, lane-sharing signage for bikers, benches for pedestrians, sidewalk trash and recycling bins, newspaper stands, and additional waypoint signage.

If the opportunity to reclaim these streets is missed, then all four of these streets will unfortunately be added to the list of “Wasted Spaces in Downtown Columbus”.

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