Iowa City Reconsiders Two-Way Streets for Downtown

November 9, 2017

Officials in Des Moines, Iowa, are considering turning most one-way downtown streets into two-way and adding more bicycle lanes in an effort to increase safety and promote retail development.

The city, the Urban Land Institute of Iowa and the Greater Des Moines Partnership worked together to create the Connect Downtown plan, The Des Moines Register reported. Connect Downtown would cost about $33 million, with an additional $500,000 in annual maintenance.

A report on the plan said reintroducing two-way traffic will make the area safer by reducing vehicle speeds and benefit local businesses by making them more accessible.

“This isn’t just an exercise to add bike lines,” said Larry James, chairman of the Urban Land Institute of Iowa. “The purpose of the project is to really focus on safety of all users, including drivers, by slowing traffic to the speed limit, and to encourage economic development.”

The report said changes could increase commutes for drivers during peak hours by one to three minutes.

The downtown area is experiencing an increase of development, with 2,300 apartment units scheduled to open this year. The Connect Downtown plan could benefit downtown residents and businesses by improving walkability, said Kris Saddoris, vice president of development for Hubbell Realty Co.

“We have a lot of beautiful places downtown, but the reality is we haven’t focused on how to get around other than in your car,” Saddoris said. “(The plan) is just as critical to retain the growth that we’ve experienced as it is to our future.”

While city leaders seemed to support the idea at a Monday workshop, some questioned where the city would get the funds for the project.

The business community would likely play an important role in funding the project, said Councilwoman Christine Hensley.

City Council will consider adopting the plan on Nov. 20.

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