Monday, August 9, 2010

Conversion of Taft and E McMillan should wait, report says

The conversion of Taft Road and E McMillan Street to two-way traffic through Walnut Hills should be addressed as part of an ongoing access study, Cincinnati Department of Transportation and Engineering (DOTE) Interim Director Michael Moore said in a report to City Council.

The report is the result of an April motion by Vice Mayor Roxanne Qualls – co-sponsored by five additional Councilmembers – directing City staff to come up with a four-year plan for converting the roadway back to its historic traffic pattern, using Complete Streets principles.

Both streets were converted to one-way traffic in the early 1970s to improve ingress and egress to and from I-71.

Both the Walnut Hills Area Council and the Walnut Hills Business Association have long contended that the conversion of two-way traffic to one-way traffic has been one of the main reasons for their neighborhood business district's decline, an opinion shared by City administration.

Qualls referred to both streets as "raceways", keeping areas like Peebles Corner from being walkable, livable, and viable.

"The area once supported a relatively high-density, mixed-use neighborhood, with commercial storefronts and large apartment buildings constructed near or close to the back of the sidewalk," Moore said. "Years of disinvestment have resulted in significant areas of building demolition, while other areas have transitioned to more automobile oriented uses. These factors have diminished the earlier neighborhood density and have contributed to a loss of pedestrian comfort along the corridor. Despite these losses, significant areas of the building fabric remain intact and retain significant character and opportunity for redevelopment."

Walnut Hills Area Council President Kathy Atkinson and other neighborhood leaders said that conversion to two-way traffic, along with improvements to foster a pedestrian and transit-friendly environment, will support the community council and Walnut Hills Business Association's effort to acquire and demolish or rehab properties along E McMillan Street to create anchors in the business district, enhance Peebles Corner and revitalize the gateway to the neighborhood.

Little improvement in traffic flow

The most recent study of the corridor, commissioned by the City's Economic Development Department in coordination with DOTE and the Walnut Hills Business Development Committee, was completed by local consulting firms Pflum, Klausmeier & Gehrum Consultants, Inc. and Menelaos Treantifillou & Associates in 2002.

The study consisted of a site inventory and traffic analysis of both streets from I-71 to Woodburn Avenue, generally consisting of four lanes of travel reduced to two lanes during off-peak, on-street parking hours.

Between 21,000 and 25,000 cars pass through the stretches of roadway daily, and traffic signals operate at a level of service of "B" or "C" on an A-F grading scale.

"As part of the study, the City is aware of the significance this corridor plays in moving traffic into Uptown, the second largest economic generator in Cincinnati, and the other perceived impacts to the efficient delivery of City fire, police and emergency services, and bus transportation," Moore said. "The findings of the study were intended to strike a balance between these significant demands on the corridor."

Five alternatives were studied:

  • 1) Existing conditions;
  • 2) True centerline two-way for both streets;
  • 3) Preferential centerline two-way, with preference given to westbound traffic on Taft Road and eastbound traffic on E McMillan Street;
  • 4) One-way westbound traffic on Taft and two-way traffic on E McMillan; and
  • 5) One-way westbound traffic on Taft and preferential two-way traffic on E McMillan.
Modeling showed a decreased level of service for all five alternatives, and only alternatives 3 and 5 were recommended for further study.

Of the two alternatives, alternative 3 ($235,000) was estimated to be more costly to implement than alternative 5 ($175,000).

Costs would include new signage and pavement markings, a change to the parking meter layout, and signal retiming. The costs associated with reconfiguring private driveways and signage were not included in the study.

Further study

Currently underway, the I-71 Access Improvement Study is examining how to improve traffic flow in the areas around I-71.

Proposed alternatives, which could include full-service interchanges at Taft and E McMillan, E Martin Luther King Jr Drive, or both, are expected to be presented to the City later this month.

Moore recommended holding off on any activity to convert the streets until the study is completed.

"If Taft and McMillan are converted to two-way traffic prior to the identification of a preferred alternative and approval of such by --> --> --> [Ohio Department of Transportation] and FHWA [Federal Highway Administration], the current 'existing conditions' model will not be correct. After conversion to two-way, new counts will be required and a new model developed to show existing conditions. This extra traffic analysis will add costs and delays to the overall project."

Previous reading on BC:
Qualls motion seen as key to revitalizing Peebles Corner (4/15/10)
Transit-oriented zoning to be before Cincinnati council by September (4/5/10)
Peebles Corner rejuvenation could begin early next year (12/9/09)
Capital, CDBG accounts approved for Peebles Corner (9/29/09)
Money could come to Peebles Corner (9/9/09)


Travis Estell said...

I'm disappointed that the "true centerline for both streets" option won't continue to be studied. It's time that we stop favoring commuters over the residents and businesses that call these communities home.

Realistically, I could see Taft and McMillian made back into two-way for their entire distances if the MLK interchange were to be constructed.

Kevin LeMaster said...

Me too. I'll be interested to see the traffic counts and what effects the interchange alternatives will have on them.

Perhaps those numbers will raise the levels of service for true centerline and make them more feasible. Right now, projected levels of E and F just aren't going to cut it.

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