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Published September 29, 2010, 12:00 AM

Forum editorial: Downtown considers 2+1 traffic

To two-way or not to two-way? That is the question that will be considered at a public meeting Thursday evening in the Fargo City Commission room regarding downtown thoroughfares.

To two-way or not to two-way? That is the question that will be considered at a public meeting Thursday evening in the Fargo City Commission room regarding downtown thoroughfares. It’s not a new question.

The most recent push to convert downtown’s one-way streets to two-way traffic got started about three years ago. An initial proposal was not received well. It seemed more of a traffic engineer’s overlay than a carefully designed reconfiguration. Two years later, a refined proposal looked better and garnered support of some, but not all, downtown businesses.

The newest iteration by an Omaha consultant is further refined and tweaked. The new “2+1” plan, based on two years of study, features two lanes in the current direction of traffic and one lane in the opposite direction. The plan provides for bicycle lanes and parking on both sides of the two-way streets.

The idea, planners said, is to slow traffic on NP and First avenues and to alter somewhat downtown traffic patterns. The study concluded that the changes would stimulate business development and make the streets safer for motorists, pedestrians and bicyclists.

Those questioning the change ask: Why go to two-way streets to stimulate development when downtown has experienced a business and cultural renaissance with one-way streets? Why threaten obvious success? Consultants and planners respond that two-ways will extend Broadway’s renaissance to adjacent thoroughfares by slowing traffic and enhancing parking and pedestrian access.

Opponents of the change worry that two-way traffic will make freight deliveries more difficult or impossible. Others believe two-way intersections are more dangerous to drivers and pedestrians than one-ways. Still others suggest slowing down traffic would create congestion and cause drivers to avoid downtown.

City officials and planners will hear it all at the Thursday meeting. But loud voices are not always wise voices. The overall long-term benefit to the downtown business community (the Downtown Community Partnership and the Downtowner business collective support the change) cannot be dismissed. Still, a final plan must take into consideration negative impact on any business. That’s a tough balancing act.

While change of this magnitude was certain to stir opposition, the new plan is better than previous plans. It has the potential to enhance the ongoing transformation of Fargo’s downtown from a drive-through to a destination.


Forum editorials represent the opinion of Forum management and the newspaper’s Editorial Board.

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