One-way streets eyed for downtown

Bainbridge officials have been studying ways to turn downtown streets into one-way only routes so one lane can be turned over to exclusive use by bicyclists and walkers.

Changing certain two-way streets to one-way only may also allow planners to carve out more room for street parking for downtown shoppers, officials said.

Though downtown merchants and others have long complained about a lack of parking in Winslow, the idea to limit auto traffic on some of the city’s busiest streets — which include parts of Winslow Way and Madison Avenue — was recently studied in greater detail by a consultant firm hired by the city.

The analysis on converting some downtown streets to one-way routes also included changeovers of two-way streets in other neighborhoods south of High School Road.

According to the report, changing some streets to one way may be a way to give residents more opportunities to walk and bike, and that could reduce reliance on automobiles while “resulting in improved livability, heath and air quality.”

Adding more on-street parking, the report notes, may help with the downtown parking crunch by giving people other places to park their vehicles further away from Winslow Way. City officials estimate that much of the parking downtown, roughly one third of the spaces, are used not by shoppers but by people who work in Winslow.

The study examined five separate areas to convert streets to one-way only:

• Madison Avenue North, Parfitt Way Southwest, Wood Avenue Southwest;

• Bjune Drive Southeast;

• Grow Avenue Northwest and Lovell Avenue Northwest;

• Grow Avenue Northeast and Winslow Way West; and

• Knetchel Way Northeast and Ericksen Avenue Northeast.

On Madison Avenue, the analysis looked at creating a half-mile clockwise loop of one-way streets that start at the intersection of Madison and Winslow Way.

Traffic would be limited to southbound only on Madison Way, then west only on Parfitt Way Southwest, then north only on Wood Avenue Southwest. Winslow Way between Wood Avenue and Madison would be an eastbound one-way.

The conversion, according to the report, would leave enough room for on-street parking on one side of Madison Avenue South and Wood Avenue Southwest without widening either street. Part of Parfitt Way Southwest could also be devoted to back-in angle parking.

Downsides exist, however. The analysis said that one-way streets may encourage drivers to use private roadways and parking lots as short-cut routes through lower-traffic streets in the neighborhood.

The changeover would also “result in a fairly high level of out-of-direction travel,” the report added, which would make people drive more than a half mile (.62 miles) to get to businesses or homes, or to change their travel direction, on the affected streets. Wood Avenue Southwest would also see a “pronounced increase” in traffic volume.

For changes to Bjune Drive Southeast, the road would become a one-way street east from Madison Avenue South to Brien Drive Southeast.

While more parking spaces could be added to that stretch of roadway, using angle parking on one or both sides, the change could cause new problems.

The report says a one-way Bjune Drive would make traveling less convenient for drivers who live, work, shop or use services in the area; adding a half mile of travel to their drive. It could mean drivers trying to access places in the area simply start parking in the lot at the Town & Country Market instead of using Bjune, or use the T&C lot as a shortcut. Boat-trailer parking would need to be moved from Bjune, as well, which would require approval from the state.

The report also notes street isn’t wide enough for a separated 10-foot-wide trail that’s been envisioned through the area.

The study looked, as well, at a few streets that have a rural, residential character: Grow Avenue Northwest and Lowell Avenue Northwest.

If the two streets were converted to one-way only, the report notes, one of the two lanes on each street could be converted to parking, though the report notes that the street improvements would need to include widening so a sidewalk could be installed if parking is placed along the same side of the road. Both streets are also under 24 feet in paved width, so both Grow and Lowell would need to be widened to allow for parking on both sides, with a sidewalk on one side.

Neighborhood residents, the report notes, would have to travel more, up to .6 miles, out of their way, and the change to one-way may be inconvenient to people who live on Grow and Lowell.

The new parking would is also expected to be used primarily by people who don’t live in the neighborhood, and the southernmost parking for the two streets would likely be used by people heading to the Bainbridge ferry or downtown, a 10-minute walk away.

The report also notes the improvements would require a “significant investment” from the city, and roadways would need substantial widening to pair parking with biking and walking improvements.

Knetchel Way Northeast was also studied for conversion to one-way only between Madison Avenue North to Ericksen Way.

Consultants said new on-street parking along the street would be mostly used by non-residents, and the new parking would draw additional traffic to Knetchel Way.

The plan for Ericksen Avenue includes making it a one-way street going north from Knetchel Way Northeast to Wallace Way, and a one-way street going south between Knetchel and Wyatt Way Northeast.

More parking could be installed on the northern stretch, the consultant report notes, but the landscaped media would need to be removed, or the roadway would need to be widened toward the east.

For more on-street parking on both sides of the southern stretch, the existing bicycle lane would need to be removed or the street would need to be expanded to the east.

Winslow Way could be changed to a one-way street going east from Grow Avenue to Madison Avenue, but consultants said the street would need to be widened to make room for parking on both sides, as well as room for walkers and bicyclists.

Consultants noted that the changeover would make it difficult for people to access on-street parking stalls, and the one-way only would encourage drivers to cut through parking lots or smaller streets like Finch Place Southwest to get to nearby businesses.

Making Winslow Way a one-way along that section would also create the biggest detours for drivers among any of the changes that were considered. People would have to drive nearly a mile extra to access some businesses, homes and officers, and the change would be “much more inconvenient” for those people, forcing them only nearby streets to loop around for access to that part of downtown.

Review of the study is in its early phases.

The consultant report, conducted by Framework Consulting, was recently reviewed by the city’s Multi-Modal Transportation Advisory Committee.

Members of the committee saw some benefits to the idea, as well as some obstacles, and the group agreed the concept was worthy of additional discussion and development.

City Councilman Joe Deets, the council liaison to the committee, said the analysis came from the city’s downtown parking study.

“It is important to recognize that a study would be needed first to determine if this is something that the community and council would support,” Deets added. “While this has potential for improving non-motorized transportation and/or parking, it would be a big change for the community and effected neighborhoods.”

Deets said he expected further talk on the suggestions at the committee level before it is taken up by the city council.

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