It might be time for two-way arteries through downtown Davenport, but only after city engineers offer a realistic cost estimate.
Kyle Carter, executive director of the Downtown Davenport Partnership, has revived the idea, calling recently for the conversion of 3rd and 4th streets from one-way to two-way. Historically, proposals such as Carter's went nowhere. This time, there looks to be support from several members of Davenport City Council.
Yet Carter's cost estimates are unimaginably low for a project of that scale. Anyone who's followed infrastructure costs knows that the $1.2 million to $1.5 million the downtown partnership's consultant came up with is probably underestimated by a factor of five or more.
A cool million might be the paint. It won't, however, fund the new curb cuts, streetscaping and engineering required to do the conversion right. And that's assuming parking on 3rd and 4th streets doesn't get reconfigured in the process.
If this is going to get done, it should be done right.
One-way streets were all the rage in cities about 40 years ago. Plannners and elected officials didn't see Walmart and Amazon coming. So moving as many vehicles as possible through downtown seemed like the logical choice for the efficiency minded. But, not long after, malls became all the rage. Sprawl turned far-flung vacant lots into big box stores and housing developments. Downtowns in cities such as Denver, Dallas and Tampa have reverted back to two-way streets in recent years. A slew of other cities are mulling the change, too, though sticker shock is causing fits among the elected class once signage and traffic lights are factored in.
To Carter's credit, he correctly lobbied for further analysis from Davenport's Department Public Works. City Council should, indeed, free up city engineers to estimate the project's costs. And no one should be shocked when DPW comes back with cost estimates substantially higher.
All that said, the vision has merit. One-way streets work as intended, moving a high-volume of vehicles at relatively high rates of speed through a given area, engineers say. Two-way streets mean slower traffic.
Believe it or not, slower traffic would be beneficial for residents, tourists and businesses.
Frankly, simply crossing the street in Davenport's downtown can be a harrowing experience. Neither 3rd nor 4th street are friendly to pedestrians and cyclists. And, thanks to the speed of traffic, it's easy for motorists to bang through Davenport's downtown without stopping for a bite to eat. Davenport's economic development set has set a goal of being "cool, connected, creative," a mantra elected officials have largely embraced. If the rhetoric is sincere, then catching up with the times and converting downtown into something more accessible to non-motorists should be a priority.
Anyone who regularly drives eastbound on 3rd Street is acutely aware of ticking bomb that is its intersection with River Drive. Almost daily, we at Quad-City Times witness a driver heading the wrong way up 3rd. Oncoming traffic is left to scatter and flail their hands in various, sometimes angry, gestures. Members of this editorial board have dodged a one-way driver or two while coming to work.
There are no shortage of rational arguments for converting Davenport's primary downtown streets from one-way to two-way. It would be good for pedestrians. It would be good for cyclists. It would be good for business.
But overall support can only follow a realistic analysis of what the project would cost the taxpayer.