What’s good about making State and High two-way streets? The urban center becomes more walkable and bikeable. Slower traffic might enhance property values by opening up new, more attractive uses. In some other cities two way traffic has helped revive local economies.
What’s bad about two-way conversion? It slows down commuter traffic. It raises public safety concerns for some folks (look both ways now!), and it makes it harder for at least a couple of important businesses to do valet parking and concert loading/offloading. It also kills 30 parking spaces that locals need badly.
So where is this conversation headed? There are two problems.
First, there’s no money. Conversion will cost several million dollars that the City’s capital budget doesn’t have, and the project hasn’t proven that it represents a priority expenditure. Maybe money can be found from state highway or federal transportation funding. But no one was sure.
Second, where’s the regional perspective? It came up in testimony like this: commuters to and from South Portland will have longer, more congested drives. No one seemed to care too much.
But, in fact, this is EXACTLY the kind of transit decision that absolutely should be made with regional considerations in mind. Getting into and out of downtown Portland – getting through downtown Portland – is why State and High Streets were made one-way thoroughfares decades ago. Planners were thinking about the region’s transportation needs, not just a few blocks in the City.
The decision makers of 40 years ago may have made mistakes. But they had the right perspective – a regional view – that we need to keep at the center of our thinking every time we discuss housing, transit or other issues that impact more than a single municipal community.
When that happens, and when the money shows up, this discussion will be ready to move ahead.