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Forum editorial: Two-way might be better way

The last time Fargo city officials proposed converting downtown's one-way streets to two-way, The Forum opposed the idea. Not necessary, we said. For what purpose? we asked.

The last time Fargo city officials proposed converting downtown's one-way streets to two-way, The Forum opposed the idea. Not necessary, we said. For what purpose? we asked.

(For the record, Forum Communications Co.'s building is on one-way First Avenue North.)

The old proposal was without context and, frankly, without much support from downtown interests.

However, a new preliminary proposal that was aired last week is a more complete vision. It incorporates two-way thoroughfares as integral elements of expanded downtown development.

The success of two-way, slowed-down traffic on Broadway is the model. Broadway has become the vibrant heart of the central district. The motorist who drives into Broadway understands traffic will be slow and congestion likely. The range of activities - retailing, restaurants, coffee shops, entertainment - generates concentrations of vehicle and foot traffic that confirm revitalized Broadway's success. If Broadway were a speedway - as are one-way First Avenue North and NP Avenue - the newly energized street-level business community there would not exist.

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The idea, then, is to extend Broadway's renaissance to the other major roadways downtown. One-way traffic has a purpose: to speed up traffic. It works. But the tradeoffs are pedestrian-unfriendly streets and reluctance of motorists to park and shop. Traffic speed inhibits retail and other development.

Conversion to two-ways can make a difference as part of a comprehensive development strategy that includes green-space "streetscaping," bicycle lanes, easy street parking and pedestrian-friendly features such as wide sidewalks and safe crosswalks. Consideration of those features changes for the better a plan to go from one-ways to two-ways.

That being said, a change to two-ways must accommodate the truck traffic that is vital to downtown. Big rigs like turning from side streets into a wide one-way because they need room to make a wide turn. A new two-way configuration might mean one lane one way and two lanes the other. The two lanes would be wide enough to handle a maneuvering semi.

It's all in the planning stages at this point. But this much is clear: It's a far better two-way conversion plan than was advanced previously. It could work. It has the potential to extend Broadway's development miracle to NP Avenue and First Avenue North.

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

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