Want a downtown that is more interesting and economically viable, more friendly for drivers and pedestrians alike? One excellent way is to turn one-way streets into two-way, as Amsterdam has just done and Schenectady is preparing to do.
One-way streets have been a disaster for Amsterdam, along with the downtown shopping mall built in the 1970s that necessitated them. The mall wiped out several blocks of buildings (some of them empty but historically and architecturally significant), while the one-ways cut off downtown’s east side from its west, its north from its south.
Since then the mall has been a dead zone, reducing what was once a sizable, vibrant downtown to a small intact area consisting of library, post office, public safety building and a handful of small businesses.
It’s been 10 years since the city made restoration of Routes 5 and 30 to two-way a priority in its comprehensive plan, but, thanks to a $3.6 million state Department of Transportation project, it’s finally about to happen (on Oct. 1). Now, if only someone would make that mall go away.
While not as bad, Schenectady has its own hodgepodge of one-way streets around City Hall that are confusing and frustrating to drivers. Three of them, Jay, Barrett and Clinton, are right next to one anther and go in the same direction — away from Proctors and downtown. Drivers coming from Little Italy on North Jay, which is two-way, are suddenly faced with a one-way street at the intersection with Union and must go blocks out of their way to get to the Jay Street pedestrian mall or State Street.
Not only do two-way streets make it easier for drivers to navigate, they are safer and more pleasant for pedestrians because they slow traffic. And they can increase business because drivers are suddenly seeing buildings they were previously routed around, or didn’t notice from their direction of travel, or were going too fast to see.
Metroplex has a plan to turn most of the one-way streets around City Hall into two-way, create some public spaces there, and make other improvements at an approximate cost of $450,000. Some parking spots would be lost along Clinton Street, which would become two-way from State to Franklin, but new ones would be created around City Hall through the use of angled parking.
Metroplex expects to do the work next year, after public hearings. Schenectady residents should support this needed project. And the city should make some contribution, as it has with other Metroplex infrastructure projects.