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State of traffic in Ann Arbor: Parts of five streets go two-way Aug. 22


City of Ann Arbor officials say the conversion of five city streets near campus to two-way traffic will make navigation of the State Street area easier and more pedestrian-friendly for visitors, faculty, staff, students and merchants.

The intersection of North State and East Liberty streets has been the center of construction activity in recent weeks as workers from the city of Ann Arbor and the Downtown Development Authority prepare the roads for a major traffic shift in the downtown/campus area. At a.m. Aug. 22, both State and Liberty, as well as parts of North University Avenue and Maynard and Thompson streets, will be changed to two-way traffic. The conversion, which includes the removal of the triangular traffic island at State and Liberty, above, officially will end the one-way traffic loop in the area developed in the 1950s. A report compiled by U-M's Taubman College of Architecture and Urban Planning, the Ford School of Public Policy, and the Business School recommended the change to "make it easier for people not familiar with the city to locate the State Street Area and to find off-street parking options, and most importantly give greater priority to pedestrians and bicyclists." The report further states: "Because the area is patronized by both people from the University and the City of Ann Arbor and increasing numbers of visitors it is seen by many as the single most important confluence of town and gown". (Photo by Marcia Ledford, U-M Photo Services)

At a.m. Aug. 22, North State Street between East Liberty and William streets will open for two-way traffic. Shortly after a ribbon-cutting ceremony at North University and State, officials will open for two-way traffic: North University between State and Thayer; Liberty between State and Thompson; Maynard between Liberty and William; and Thompson between Liberty and Jefferson.

"We like this challenge," says Adrian Iraola, project manager for the city's Downtown Development Authority (DDA). "This has not been done in many years, and we get the unique opportunity to go on the books as the people that made this change.

"And we will get all of the credit or the blame," he adds with a smile.

The change to two-way traffic was recommended in the May 2000 report, "State Street Development Project: An Urban Design Workbook." A study by the Taubman College of Architecture and Urban Planning, the Ford School of Public Policy and the Business School generated the findings in the report.

"We hope this helps with navigation to campus for faculty, staff, students and prospective students, and brings the desired impact of increased viability for the commercial district," says Jim Kosteva, U-M director of community relations. "We are anxious to see how the traffic pattern impacts the University. It is our interest to make the campus a safe pedestrian environment, and we will be monitoring how it affects that."

Robert Beckley, professor emeritus of architecture and urban planning, and students from Taubman and the University Research Opportunity Program, conducted research for the report. Its vision is "to intensify the positive aspects and activities of the area by strengthening its pedestrian orientation, recognizing the area's many cultural and entertainment venues, encouraging a diverse business mix, and developing a well-organized and pleasing physical environment."

"It will make the area more accessible for more people and enable them to get around in an easier fashion," says Susan Pollay, DDA executive director. "This is exciting for the city and the University. I have seen a lot of buildings go up and come down in 20-plus years, but this is a change that affects everyone."

Pollay says opening North University to two-way traffic will allow greater access to and from many of the University's "jewels," including Rackham and Hill auditoriums, the Michigan League and the exhibit museums.

According to the workbook, the one-way loop of Liberty, Maynard, William and State was implemented in 1957. Thompson was added to the one-way pattern in 1969.

"Ann Arbor has hundreds of thousands of visitors every year, and many of them are unfamiliar with the one-way grid we have," Iraola says. "It is going to be quite a task, but we have done our homework and are confident in how this is going to happen."

The project includes the installation of traffic signals at State/North University, State/Liberty and Liberty/Thompson. It includes improvements to street lighting, sidewalks and landscaping. The report also calls for better directions to the city's parking facilities.

Iraola says there will be no parking on the east side of State between North University and Liberty, and parallel parking will replace angled spaces on the north side of North University. All the streets will continue to have parking spaces.

"We have a beautiful city and campus, and this is really about people and getting them to come to the area," Pollay says. "There is always more parking demand than supply, and you don't need a car to enjoy the experience."

The Ann Arbor Transit Authority will introduce its new "Link" route Aug. 22. The Link will connect Ann Arbor's four major shopping and dining areas—Kerrytown, State Street, Main Street, and South University and Central Campus. The buses will run every eight minutes, and 13 of 24 stops are on campus.

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