MONROE - The day after City Council narrowly voted to change a pair of one-way streets in the city center to two-way arteries to boost retail trade, city engineer Patrick Lewis was busy figuring out how to get state approval to turn the OK into reality.
"The Michigan Department of Transportation has to look at it, " he said yesterday.
Under the plan, East First Street between South Monroe and South Macomb streets and East Second Street between Washington and South Macomb streets will allow two-way traffic.
"I'm pleased," said Mr. Lewis, who, along with Mayor John Iacoangeli, proposed the idea two years ago.
SSOE Inc. of Toledo carried out a study that showed the plan would not cause a substantial increase in downtown traffic congestion, giving Mr. Lewis and the mayor the green light they needed to move forward.
The plan sailed through the City Council traffic committee, chaired by the mayor, in a 7-0 vote. But several City Council members - and several retail shop owners - were not as convinced.
Council members Dorothy Edwards and Linda Compora said the change would be confusing to drivers, while Councilman William Burkett said he had received numerous letters from constituents opposing the action, Mr. Lewis said.
But three other council members and the mayor voted yes, believing the change will be good for downtown, giving the plan a narrow nod.
Mr. Lewis said the downtown streets were two-way for many years before being changed to one-way sometime in the 1960s.
"One-way streets do flow better, but you have larger goals here, which is a good thing for the community," he said.
Mr. Lewis conceded there would be an increase in traffic at the already busy Monroe and First Street intersection, but "[the inconvenience] is vastly offset by the enhancement and accessibility to the downtown area."
Police Chief John Michrina cited other benefits from the plan.
Eastbound traffic on East Second will be less congested, he said, while East Second as a whole, an underutilized artery, will draw more traffic and, thus, retail customers.
A unique feature of the plan calls for back-end, angular parking on the south side of East Second.
"There will be a major information campaign to let people know because no one is used to it," Mr. Lewis said. "But it's worth a shot."
State transportation officials have to OK the plan because Monroe and First is a state intersection and West First is part of M-50. A pair of traffic signals will be added to First Street, another state approval process.
"The city will pay for the lights," said Mr. Lewis, who hopes to have final approval no later than May.
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