Would two-way traffic on Main, Cary be a boon to downtown business?

Two local writers cite studies that suggest ending one-way traffic on two of the city’s major arteries might bolster local business, make the city more walkable.

Is the one-way street an antiquated urban planning tactic that should be revisited? Would transitioning West Main and West Cary Streets–two of the main arteries piercing Carytown, The Fan, and the Museum District–to two-way traffic be a boon to business?

These are the questions posed by editorials in both the Richmond Times-Dispatch and RVANews today.

The RTD’s Michael Paul Williams cites studies that say it may be quite beneficial:

Studies have shown that two-way streets slow traffic, boost the visibility and vitality of urban retailers, and move motorists more efficiently to their destination — all while improving neighborhood ambiance. And a neighborhood is what downtown Richmond has become, as its renovated buildings fill with students, hipsters, young professionals and empty-nesters.

Not coincidentally, a return to two-way streets in Richmond has been a stated goal of various city plans dating back to 1998. Such a conversion will not be cheap. But it has been maddeningly slow to come to fruition, even as the city has found money for other pet projects that popped up in the interim.

RVANews’ Aaron Williams opines that this stretch of roadway has the most potential to become a walkable neighborhood of any area in the city:

Outside of the VCU Monroe Park Campus, what area in Richmond has more potential as a walkable neighborhood than Carytown and the restaurants and bars on Main Street? What obligation does Cary Street have to commuters? Two-way reversion is already part of the Richmond master plan downtown, and now it’s time to move this strategy west to the retail district with the most character and potential in the entire metro-region.

Two-way reversion isn’t a magic bullet that will fix an entire neighborhood’s struggles, but the return on investment is too good to ignore.

The city’s Master Plan calls for conversion of some streets to two-way traffic, starting with a stretch of East Grace Street between 4th and 9th Streets.

Read Michael Paul Williams and Aaron Williams’ articles, and then let us know where you stand on the issue.

Photo: Olivia Ruffin

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Trevor Dickerson

Trevor Dickerson loves all things Richmond and manages RVANews’ West of the Boulevard and West End community sites.

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