Downtown Dayton plan: Eliminate traffic lanes, change 1-way to 2-way traffic, improve walkability

Downtown Dayton’s street-level experience could see big changes in coming years, possibly including the elimination of traffic lanes on some major roadways, a road diet for South Main Street and the conversion of some one-way streets into two-way.

The new Downtown Streetscape Guidelines and Corridor Plan calls for millions of dollars in upgrades and investments to “tame” traffic and make the urban center more walkable, connected and pedestrian and bike friendly.

The plan sets the overall design vision for a successful, economically vibrant 21st century American city and creates more direct linkages between the urban active lifestyle environment, urban experience and economic activity, said Todd Kinskey, Dayton’s planning and community development director.

“The changes proposed will take time to materialize but the city and its partners are already using this plan to guide development and street-level changes,” Kinskey said. “Calming the traffic on our streets by re-utilizing some of the pavement for cyclists, additional on-street parking and pedestrian infrastructure will all improve users experience of downtown.”

The Downtown Streetscape Guidelines and Corridor Plan lays out a vision for the downtown street experience for the next 15 years.

The plan has been approved and adopted by the Dayton Plan Board. The Dayton City Commission is expected to vote on the plan soon.

Downtown’s comeback has been fueled by new investments in housing, restaurants and businesses and amenities, but local officials say infrastructure and streetscape enhancements have helped set the stage for redevelopment.

The new plan makes recommendations intended to improve the pedestrian experience, such as installing new way-finding signage and creating colorful and eye-catching gateways.

The plan calls for streetscape design consistency and the thoughtful placement of trees, tree lawns, flower beds and outdoor patios and dining areas.

The plan supports expanding the downtown cycling network with new proposed bike lanes, with preference given to separated and protected bike lanes and cycling tracks.

The plan also endorses eliminating traffic lanes on some sections of Main, Second, Third, Fourth, Fifth and Ludlow streets to create new on street parking and add other infrastructure elements.

The plan supports adding stamped-concrete center medians or features on First, Second, Third and Fourth streets and new protected bike lanes on Jefferson and Ludlow streets.

Other suggested upgrades for various roads include protected cycling tracks, street trees, planting beds and pedestrian lighting The plans supports converting some traffic lights on Monument Avenue to stop signs.

The plan says there are about $8.2 million in public investments already in the pipeline for some of downtown’s major streets, and it proposes about $11.7 million in new projects.

The streetscape guidelines and corridor plan is the next step in the evolution of the Greater Downtown Dayton Plan, which launched in 2010 and set the strategic vision for downtown, said Scott Murphy, vice president of economic development with the Downtown Dayton Partnership.

A vibrant street-level experience will catalyze economic activity in downtown, and this document spells out guidelines, policies and plans that are “building blocks” to creating the right kind of urban environment, Murphy said.

“It’s about incremental improvements that will calm traffic and create safer, more walkable streets,” he said. “As we fill in this bicycle network, it will help people get around downtown in a more functional way.”

The plan also calls for converting West First Street, Monument Avenue and North St. Clair Streets from one-way to two-way traffic.

Monument Avenue, for example, would benefit from being two-way the entire corridor, because right now it “confusingly” switches between one and two way in various parts, the plan states.

Some people have long criticized downtown’s one-way streets, claiming they are confusing, dangerous and tough to navigate.

Others disagree, saying they help traffic flow smoothly and are much safer, partly because pedestrians don’t have to worry about traffic coming from multiple directions.

The plan says the one-way streets are leftover from a different time, when traffic was a problem in the urban core. These days, Dayton has been recognized for its lack of traffic congestion.

By the late 1950s, downtown Dayton’s street network was clogged with traffic, and the city decided to make many streets one-way to try to move vehicles more quickly through the center city, according to the streetscape and corridor plan.

Freeways were completed the next decade, and much of the traffic through downtown disappeared, the plan says, but the one-way system remained in place, which hurt the walkability and connectivity of the urban center.

By the early 1990s, there were a variety of citizens and city officials and consultants who wanted to bring back two-way traffic. They may finally get their wish, if the plan’s recommendations are acted upon.

About the Author