Waco officials are floating plans to convert two more one-way streets to two-way streets as they move forward with the conversion of Washington Avenue, which is expected to be followed by Franklin Avenue.
Public outreach on converting Fourth and Fifth streets from Waco Drive to Herring Avenue into two-way roads likely will start in January, city traffic engineering manager Eric Gallt said Tuesday. Plans for Fourth and Fifth streets are not complete, but it likely would be a simpler and quicker project than Washington or Franklin, Gallt said.
“These are in ideal condition for a conversion,” he said of Fourth and Fifth.
The work could be complete by next summer, he said. It could be completed by in-house construction crews and would only require restriping and modifications to traffic signals. Franklin and Washington require more complex pavement work.
The stretch of Fourth and Fifth streets is in a primarily residential area, and the current combination of a wide, one-way street and little traffic encourages drivers to speed, Gallt said.
Discussions on converting Washington and Franklin, meanwhile, have been ongoing for years.
The project to convert a stretch of Washington between Fifth and 18th streets is set to go out for bid this fall, with construction wrapping up next summer. The project to convert Franklin from Fourth to 17th street is expected to be ready to go to bid in the spring.
The conversions on Franklin and Washington are intended to make the area more pedestrian- and bike-friendly and to improve access to downtown businesses. Washington is expected to cost $2.3 million, and Franklin is expected to cost $1.8 million. Those projections likely are low, however, because Interstate 35 construction is driving prices up, Gallt said.
The bulk of the cost would come from pavement rehabilitation projects already planned as part of the city’s Better Street Waco pavement program, or sidewalk improvement required by the Americans with Disabilities Act.
“They were identified as critical pathways, so we’re really pushing these forward now to match what we’re doing with the pavement management program,” Gallt said during the council meeting work session.
The conversion of Fourth and Fifth is expected to cost about $350,000.
Franklin Avenue is key to the city’s Bus Rapid Transit plan, which is awaiting approval from the Federal Transit Administration. The transit plan, which would restructure bus routes to improve commute times and access, is built around a central line along Franklin Avenue.
Gallt said the work on Franklin needs to square with the Bus Rapid Transit plans as much as possible, and the final design for Franklin likely would not have bike lanes to make sure buses are accommodated. The Washington conversion includes plans for bike lanes separated from the main lanes by a concrete buffer.
Waco Metropolitan Planning Organization Director Chris Evilia said with more visitors coming from out of town, more people are making wrong turns onto one-ways, but the streets would still be able to handle additional traffic after they are converted to two-way traffic.
“Even with all the activities, with Magnolia, it’s still less than the current capacity of the roadway,” Evilia said.
Evilia said the one-way streets encourage fast traffic in the residential area along Fourth and Fifth and pose a practical problem for businesses along Franklin and Washington Avenue.
“If you’re a property owner and you don’t have two-way access to your property, most folks coming from the opposite direction have to make a U-turn and come back around,” Evilia said.
A city study of the downtown area singled out Washington and Franklin as a couplet, a pair of streets that rely on Austin Avenue for circulation between the two of them.
“The main problem seems to be motorist understanding of the street traffic pattern,” the study states.