The idea of narrowing the crosstown route known as the “17th-18th-19th Street Corridor” is gaining traction but drawing controversy.
The Waco City Council heard a report Tuesday on the final draft of a yearlong corridor study, which proposes to remove lanes from parts of the corridor to reduce speeds and boost safety. Consultants called it “right-sizing” a corridor with excess capacity.
“The purpose was to try to create a new environment in the street corridor focusing on multimodal mobility and walkability,” said Kevin St. Jacques, an engineer from Freese and Nichols, which developed the city-commissioned study.
But some business owners along the corridor who attended the work session Tuesday said the changes go too far in reducing the capacity of an important route.
“I don’t think any of us don’t think any changes need to be made,” said David Lacy, president of Community Bank and Trust at Washington Avenue and 18th Street. “But when they’re talking about pedestrian accommodations, I just think it needs to be auto friendly as well.”
City engineering project official Jim Reed told the council the study shows the road can be narrowed without causing congestion.
“It was clear (from public forums) that sacrificing any functionality was not recommended,” Reed said.
The corridor stretches from Garden Drive in South Waco, through downtown and past McLennan Community College to Lake Shore Drive.
The southern half of the corridor consists of a one-way pair — 17th and 18th streets — which carry three or four lanes of traffic in each direction. That section has seen a dramatic decline in traffic over the last decade, dropping from about 25,000 vehicles per day to about 10,000 in 2017, according to the study.
Between Interstate 35 and Columbus Avenue, the report recommends removing a lane in each direction while adding buffered bike lanes that could also be used for buses. Seventeenth Street would be two lanes from Columbus Avenue to Morrow Avenue, while 18th Street in that section would be two lanes with a bike lane.
At the bottleneck intersections with Bosque Boulevard and Homan Avenue, the plan calls for new pedestrian crossings. In addition, a block of 18th Street would get a northbound lane to allow Bosque Boulevard traffic a shortcut to turn north on 18th.
Several four-lane sections west of Bosque Boulevard would be converted to three lanes, including a middle turn lane.
Between Park Lake Drive and McLennan Community College, a five-lane roadway would be maintained, but a wide walkway would be added to allow pedestrians to access restaurants and services along the road.
Councilman Dillon Meek said the study is a good starting point for council discussions on taming traffic in the corridor.
“A lot of this goes through my district,” Meek said. “I think (residents) understand this is an important artery, but they also have concerns about safety, with the lanes being too narrow and numerous. There are some opportunities for a better balance of safety and accessibility.”
But he questioned the use of 17th and 18th Street as a place to invest in bike lanes, noting that many cyclists prefer to use 11th and 15th Streets.
St. Jacques said cyclists have told him 17th and 18th could become an “emerging corridor” for bike travel once traffic is tamed.
Lacy, the banker, attended the meeting with H-E-B official Ed Page, Family Health Center executive Dave Hunt and George’s owner Sammy Citrano.
Outside the meeting, several of the group expressed frustration that their objections had not been heard in the process. Lacy said he does not oppose removing lanes from the three- and four-lane sections, but he doesn’t like the idea of sections with only one lane going each direction.