Part of Randolph and Virginia streets could become two-way streets if a bill introduced Monday at a Charleston City Council meeting passes.
The proposed bill is looking at Virginia and Randolph streets between Pennsylvania and Delaware avenues. Councilwoman Deanna McKinney, a Democrat representing Ward 6, introduced the legislation.
McKinney said she hopes a two-way traffic flow will make the West Side more accessible from other parts of the city.
“It’s all one-ways. You always have to go around just to get to the West Side from the east [side of the city],” McKinney said.
Mark Sadd, a Charleston attorney, said he brought the idea to McKinney because he thinks it will expedite the West Side’s revitalization.
“I think revitalization takes many different steps, and this is one of those steps,” Sadd said. “The West Side is also needing some attention right now. I think changing the traffic flow can help improve a struggling community.”
Sadd focused on Randolph and Virginia streets because they were pointed out in the city’s 2013 comprehensive plan. According to the plan, the one-way pair does not appear to be warranted for traffic flow reasons. It also described the traffic volume as “modest” and there are a number of two-way streets in the area.
Although, changing the streets to two-way streets was proposed years ago, it never came to fruition.
“The comprehensive plan is made up of a lot of recommendations,” city Planning Director Dan Vriendt said. “It’s up to council and other entities to make up their minds about which ideas they want to champion.”
One-way systems can accommodate a higher volume of cars, which is often the reason they were installed. But that extra capacity may not be necessary in Charleston since there is not significant congestion, the 2013 report said.
The report also said a number of people voiced that the one-way streets make navigating difficult and generally do not support the walkable environment that is desired in Charleston.
Reconsidering one-way streets also came up in the latest draft of the West Side Community Renewal Plan, which was most recently updated last month.
Vriendt said the shift toward two-way streets seems to be happening across the country. However, that wasn’t the case when the streets were first established.
“[One-way streets] were really sort of a trend nationally at that time. It was about moving cars through an area as fast and efficiently as you can,” Vriendt said. “Traffic on two-way streets and is more business friendly and it’s less confusing to people navigating streets.”
After the bill was introduced to council it was referred to the Planning, Streets and Traffic Committee. Traffic studies will need to be completed before the bill goes in front of council for a vote, Vriendt said.
“It’s early in the process,” Vriendt said. “It’s not something you can just approve. You need to study and see what the impacts are going to be.”