In February 1973, motorists on Davenport's Brady and Harrison streets encountered a series of orange and white barrels at Lombard Street near Vander Veer Park.

The barrels were temporary markers intended help drivers navigate a new system of traffic flow intended to relieve congestion on the city's two principal north-south thoroughfares.

Davenport's first Brady-Harrison one-way system had arrived.

Thirty years later, the north-south one-ways are in the news as the city looks at ways of revitalizing the Brady Street corridor. Among the solutions being explored include reopening Brady and Harrison to two-way traffic as a way of improving access to businesses.

Let's take a historical spin to find out how Brady and Harrison, among the Quad-Cities' most heavily-traveled traffic arteries, became one-ways in the first place.

A system of north-south one-ways was among of the proposals intended to improve traffic flow between Interstate 80 and the central city and to reduce the number of accidents on Brady.

In July 1970, the Davenport Times-Democrat reported, a record 32 vehicle accidents occurred on Brady Street. Vehicle counts showed that during peak periods more than 25,000 vehicles used portions of Brady Street.

With a proposal for a north-south freeway dead, a north-south one-way system on Brady and Harrison streets emerged as the best solution to the problem. The one-ways were among the recommendations for a better community as presented in a "Blueprint for Progress," published by the Times-Democrat in October 1971.

The campaign for one-ways heated up that winter.

"We have talked, talked, talked, talked. Let us positively act this year," John Mucha, chairman of the Davenport Chamber of Commerce's traffic committee told Bill Wundram in a special report published in the Times-Democrat on Jan. 9, 1972.

In March, the Motor Club of Iowa released a study requested by Mayor Kathryn Kirschbaum that recommended a north-south, one-way traffic system on Brady and Harrison streets with a one-way westerly connecting route on Lombard Street.

William L. Marvin, director of the motor club's department of traffic engineering, said the proposal would provide four moving lanes in each direction on one-way streets between River Drive and Lombard.

"In general, traffic conflicts will be reduced, delays will be reduced and density will be reduced. This will enable the two streets to carry much more traffic with less congestion as a pair of one-way streets than they possibly could as two two-way streets," the study said.

Not all were in favor of the one-ways.

"A one-way in front of my place would cut my business in half," one restaurant operator on Brady Street said.

The system was implemented on Feb. 8, 1973. Crews had rolled out the sandbag-filled barrels at the intersections of Brady and Harrison streets at Lombard Street to guide motorists. Shortly after midnight, they began uncovering the one-way signs and changing traffic signals, completing the task just before the morning rush hour.

Under the system, Brady became one-way northbound and Harrison became one-way southbound between River Drive and Lombard Street. Lombard, between Brady and Harrison streets, became one-way westbound.

The reflective-painted barrels formed islands in the intersections of Lombard and Brady streets and Lombard and Harrison streets to divide the two-way traffic north of there and channel it into the one-way system.

The system, initiated for a 90-day trial, worked. The city council voted to make it permanent and appropriated funds to extend a one-way system beyond Lombard Street.

On May 1, 1984, after a more than a year of construction, the city opened the present north-south, one-way system. Brady become one-way north to near 59th Street. Southbound traffic on Brady Street was diverted to a newly constructed, three-lane highway that branched off Brady near 59th Street. The new highway connected with Harrison Street south of 37th Street, where Harrison became one-way south to River Drive. The new southbound highway later was designated Welcome Way in a name-the-street contest.

The system opened without a hitch.

"Invasion of the One-Ways" -- that horror flick that was to feature head-on collisions and mobs of angry motorists -- is a flop . . . and no one is complaining,"

Quad-City Times reporter Bill Theobald wrote.

John Willard can be contacted at (563) 383-2314 or jwillard@qctimes.com.

Copyright 2003 by Quad-City Times, All rights Reserved.

Ask the Times appears on Thursdays and Saturdays. You can call 563-333-2632, email ask@qctimes.com or write Ask the Times, Quad-City Times, 500 E. 3rd St., Davenport, IA 52801.

 

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