Which way do we go with downtown project?

Traffic study approved for Route 66 Phase II project; will look at option of 2nd and 3rd as two-way streets

With the First Street Pathway completed, attention of the Renaissance on Route 66 project turns to the two blocks north of the new park. To be considered functional, the new designs of Second and Third Streets must go with the flow, especially of traffic.

Before any work can begin, a traffic study has been ordered that could determine how the streets are redesigned. The study may also suggest that Second and Third become two-way streets.

City Engineer Mark Woodson has sub-contracted Lee Engineering to work on the traffic study. The study's chief engineer, Dave Bruggeman of Lee Engineering, has worked on previous studies in Winslow and is the consultant for the Arizona Department of Transportation to redesign the signals on Williamson.

Woodson said the Phase II plans are in their final approval stage with ADOT and the traffic study would help determine the final touches.

Phase II includes improvements to intersections along Second and Third Streets, archways and lighting in the alleys between buildings on those streets, a performance plaza where the Chamber of Commerce is located and landscaping.

The cosmetic changes are designed to bring more people downtown. More people mean more traffic and the need for more parking.

Also, as part of the $8.2 million Turnback Agreement, ADOT performed a project assessment to determine what improvements were necessary to determine the value. The state agency concluded it needed to upgrade the signals. Woodson said ADOT would wait for the traffic study to see if signals would be needed for one-way or two-way travel.

The study is divided into two segments that cover the Route 66 corridor from Hipkoe to Transcon Lane. The first will focus on traffic issues such as flow, parking, signals and signs and possibly changing from one-way to two-way.

Daily traffic volume will be collected during three peak periods over two-weeks, but intersection counts will be collected only on Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday in order to record peak movements.

"You want to try and look at more normal distributions of traffic and volume rather than weekends, or Mondays or Fridays; you could have large spikes either upwards or downwards," said Brennan Kidd, Project Manager for Lee Engineering. "The whole point being, is going through a hypothetical exercise of what this change would mean and the pros and cons of it."

The second segment of the study will look at land use possibilities.

"We're not going to go into this a great deal, but one of the things that we like to think the corridor improvements do is spur economic development," Woodson said. "We need to look at the corridor and say, 'should we have more housing opportunities or more retail opportunities.'"

The first segment is scheduled to end in December with the second part to be finished within three months of completion of the first.

City Council unanimously approved the study as long as it does not cost the city more than $64,650.

Woodson said he tentatively plans to hold a public hearing to take general comments on the one-way or two-way issue. A second meeting could take place after the results of the study are finalized. After that meeting, Woodson said he would make his recommendation to Council.

One-way traffic on Second and Third Streets began June 11, 1953 to great uproar by Second Street merchants, who claimed they would lose business.

Mayor Floyd Whipple said the change was necessary because he said the then-Arizona Highway Department was considering building a highway around downtown to relieve traffic congestion. Stop signs were removed from intersections at Williamson and Berry to keep traffic moving on Third. However, a study in July of that year found traffic signals would be necessary at Williamson on Second and Third.

The overall Renaissance on Route 66 project was divided into three phases with the ultimate goal of improving the look of downtown Winslow. Phase I was the First Street Pathway and Phase III is temporarily on hold. The project is partially funded through two federal TEA-21 grants. The grants are only available for up to $500,000 and can only be used for transportation related improvements.

As part of the grant, the State Historic Preservation Office will oversee final plans to ensure they conform to the actual historic look of Winslow. The overall intent is to try and capture the heyday of Route 66 in the 1940s and 50s.

In April 2004, City Council unanimously approved Phase II with a budget cap of $2 million for the cost of construction only. Engineering and design fees are not part of the cap but a 10-percent contingency is included.

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