May 17, 2022 - News

Des Moines is looking into converting 2 major one-way streets

A photo along Grand Avenue in Des Moines.

Trafffic along Grand Avenue in downtown Des Moines on Friday, April 1. Photo: Meg McLaughlin/The Des Moines Register via Imagn

Des Moines will launch a study this year into how to convert Grand Avenue and Locust Street into two-way roads, city engineer Steven Naber told council members in a meeting last week.

Why it matters: Grand and Locust are two of downtown's main arteries.

  • Converting them would change traffic patterns that have relied on one-way streets for efficient travel through the downtown corridor for decades.

Catch up fast: The plan stems from a 2017 city study to improve mobility.

  • Converting existing one-way streets into two-ways, as well as adding things like buffered bike lanes and sidewalk improvements, would reduce speeding and improve safety, the study concluded.
  • Two-way streets have also been shown to reduce crime and benefit local business, the 2017 study's authors noted.

State of play: Some one-way streets are already being converted.

  • Fifth Avenue from Grand Avenue to Cherry Street, and Grand Avenue from 3rd Street to Fifth Avenue are being converted to two-ways this year as part of a $2.2 million plan.

Zoom in: The Grand/Locust study will help identify the overall impact of converting the roads into two-ways and determine the need for additional traffic signals.

  • It'll also evaluate concerns such as whether emergency response vehicles like fire trucks could have trouble maneuvering the streets, Naber said.
  • Some on-street parking could be lost, he noted.

By the numbers: The city plans to spend $1 million for planning and design of the Grand and Locust conversions over the next two years.

  • Construction and maintenance would cost $8 million, currently planned for 2025 and 2026.

What they're saying: Paul Rottenberg, a downtown restauranteur, told Axios yesterday that if the plan is approved, vehicle speeds would drop, loop scooping problems would be reduced and the area would become more pedestrian friendly and easier for visitors to navigate.

What's next: The study will begin this fall.

  • Results will be presented to the City Council for review prior to the start of design work in 2023, Naber said.

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