EDMOND, Okla. — Downtown is changing. It’s evolving as a burgeoning entertainment district with a more urban appeal.
“So as uses change downtown along Broadway and on other streets, we thought it was kind of a good time to talk about how the public environment should change along with that district,” said Randy Entz, city planner.
Conclusions have not been made. City planners are gathering ideas from Edmond residents and downtown business owners about improving downtown’s street design and traffic flow.
A recent Downtown Street Design and Traffic Forum began that conversation with the intent of obtaining public feedback. City staff will be offering a city survey to enhance discussion. Another in-depth discussion on parking will occur during the next six to eight months after consultants make their review, he added.
“Downtown has a vision,” Entz said. “And that vision is that downtown is a healthy, vibrant, walkable urban neighborhood full of people who are working, eating, shopping, and learning.”
Walking could be encouraged with safer crossings at the main intersections, City Councilman David Chapman said. Pedestrians can be confused about the crossing devices because they are not positioned in close proximity to crosswalks, he added.
“You have to find the button and it’s not in the right place,” Chapman continued.
Thomas Small, principal of the Small Group Architects, said his employees have found it is safer to cross the middle of the four-lane street than the crosswalks. Drivers don’t observe the crosswalks, Small explained. Downtown traffic is moving too fast and needs to slow down, others remarked.
“It’s up to us to look and determine if you’re going to get hit or not. In the crosswalk you are not safe,” Small said.
Mayor Dan O’Neil said a signal indicating safe passage across an intersection is not dependable. A safe crossing depends on the observation of the driver and the walker, he said. Entz said intersections should be marked and with good lighting. Wider sidewalks allow customers to look at store fronts as they walk safely, he added.
“You have to feel like walking is the easier choice for you, if you really want to make it walkable,” Entz said.
Downtown’s growing entertainment district is becoming a more popular destination point while Broadway traffic keeps increasing, Entz said. As an urban street Broadway handles 12,000 to 16,000 cars a day passing through downtown.
“If there was a faster, easier way — they would take that faster, easier way,” Entz said. “Traffic is like steam. It goes through the easiest place.”
Speeders are not the ones shopping downtown, but are heading home or to their offices, Small said. He encourages impatient drivers to take other routes home.
“That would probably solve 90% of our problem,” Small said.
People heading to northeast Edmond would be more likely to use Boulevard. Fretz would be useful to drivers coming to or from northwest Edmond, Small noted.
“Once they find out you can only go 15- or 20-mph down through Edmond, they’re going to avoid that completely,” Small said.
Drivers approaching alleys from sidewalks downtown are at an increased risk because drivers and pedestrians cannot see each other where they cross. Congestion will increase with more people walking to Venue 102, the Railyard, and eventually the Rail Spur district.
Entz said reducing traffic lanes from two lanes each direction to one lane each direction could potentially reduce traffic passing through downtown but make it easier for traffic destined to downtown.
“We have a lot of complaints that those lights aren’t all green,” Chapman said.
Another idea involves making Broadway two lanes with an additional center lane. The center lane would be helpful for people backing up. The angle of parking could be adjusted to help drivers back-up easier.
“It also gives you an escape with somebody backing out. You can avoid a head-on collision with somebody backing out that way,” Chapman said. “That’s what Broken Arrow has done. They’ve got a turn-lane in the middle (for turning).”
Koorosh Zahrai, vice president of business development at Campbell Corner, liked the idea of a reduced four-lane to a two-lane Broadway with a median placed in the center of the street, landscaped with trees and/or other vegetation.
“Creating an enhanced pedestrian experience in Downtown Edmond is a good idea,” Zahrai said. “The investment will pay back huge multiples in terms of benefits to the community and local economy.”