Waco: Is two-way the right way or the wrong way?

(Photo by Bill Gowdy)
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WACO, Texas (KWTX) Work is set to start this summer on converting Washington Avenue from one-way to two-way traffic in downtown Waco, if the city council gives final approval on March 6, but not everyone favors the change.

Washington has been a one-way street between North 5th and North 18th streets for years.

Local residents are accustomed to the traffic flow downtown, but visitors drawn to the city by the Magnolia Market and other attractions often aren’t.

Barnett's Pub Director of Operations John Hodges says from his second story office window he has witnessed a number of near-crashes on Franklin Avenue.

"Maybe like three to four times a week if not daily, we see cars driving the opposite way, near missed wrecks."

Hodges says it's time to change the one way streets downtown back to two ways.

"With all the visitors and how the city is growing, it just has become a bigger issue."

With the council's approval, city is set to revamp Washington this summer said Eric Gallt, Waco’s manager of traffic engineering.

"You'll see research nationwide that going from a one way to a two way does enhance business viability, so it's something that is generally embraced by the business community."

Gallt says he believes the change on Washington, will lead change on other one-way streets downtown, as well.

"We are looking at Franklin possibly for next year, and we're going to go back out to the public with our preferred alternative for Franklin."

Banker David Lacy of Community Bank and Trust, however, has established a movement called One Way Forward Waco to push back against the effort to change one-way streets in downtown to two way traffic.

"The city needs to slow down,” he said.

“Two-way streets need to be thought out better. There are just some unanswered questions regarding two way traffic on Washington Avenue, one of which would be left turn lanes and how specifically they will be handled in each of every intersection."

“The city will lose valuable parking spaces along the street if they are changed back to two-way traffic,” he said.

The possible changes downtown would coincide with Interstate 35 widening project, he points out.

"The four to five year I-35 project will further congest downtown streets and if they can't handle the flow, it will not be safe," Lacy said.

The state has already designated Loop 340 as an alternative route around the city when traffic on the interstate slows to a crawl through construction areas.