A perspective from Oregon’s mid-Willamette Valley

Panel to consider 2-way pattern downtown

Written December 7th, 2020 by Hasso Hering

On First Avenue this afternoon, the bike points the way cars would head in the near lane if two-way traffic was restored.

How about restoring the original two-way traffic pattern to First and Second avenues in Albany’s downtown commercial core?

The idea has been kicked around before but never pursued. Now the Albany Traffic Safety Commission will consider it. The advisory group may discuss it as early as its next meeting, on Jan. 4, 2021.

Steph Nappa, one of the panel’s seven members, brought it up Monday as an item for future consideration. Chairman Ron Green and other members agreed. Green called the possibility exciting.

As local residents and drivers know, First Avenue is one way west from Main to Calapooia Street. And Second runs one way east for the same 15 blocks. Nappa suggested going back to a two-way  pattern only in the old commercial core west of Ellsworth.

Nappa is a transportation planner with the Cascades West Council of Governments. Councilman Dick Olsen appointed her to the city traffic panel in April 2020. Commissioners are appointed for three-year terms.

Albany’s 2001 downtown urban renewal plan listed conversion to two-way traffic on First and Second as one of its projects — No. 34, actually — but neither the council nor the urban renewal advisory board followed up.

At the moment I can’t find out when First and Second were turned into one-way streets. It was probably done when the Lyon Street Bridge was built in the early 1970s.

One-way traffic patterns became a fad in small towns across America about 50 years ago. But in recent years, many cities have changed back when they figured out that two-way traffic produces lower speeds and is better for commerce as well.

As it happens, one well publicized change-back was accomplished in 2017 by New Albany, Ind., a city of 36,000 on the Ohio River across from Louisville, Ky.

At Monday’s meeting, transportation systems analyst Ron Irish cautioned the commission that in Albany, converting First and Second to two-way traffic would be trickier than in other places. It would have a big impact on Highway 20 (Ellsworth and Lyon), and ODOT would have to be involved.

With ODOT in the picture you’d think this idea is dead from the start. But maybe not. Maybe the state agency could be convinced that the benefits to downtown Albany are big enough to warrant going ahead. (hh)

The Albany Traffic Safety Commission during Monday’s remote, on-line meeting.

14 responses to “Panel to consider 2-way pattern downtown”

  1. Richard Vannice says:

    1st and 2nd were one way streets when we moved to Albany in 1960. If they are going to pull this idiotic “Change because it’s exciting” why not do Lyon and Ellsworth too?
    OOPS can’t do that because those are a State Highway.
    What is wrong with what it is now???????????????? Traffic seems to work well now.
    Imagine someone east bound on first and wanting to turn north on Lyon to cross the bridge? Thru traffic has right of way so you can picture sitting with your blinker on and not being able to make a left turn.
    Come on folks use a bit of common sense. Driving through this area is, at times, a trying experience but managble.

  2. Becky says:

    I do not think going back to two way traffic is a bad idea, but if the proposal is coming from a safety committee, for the sake of slower traffic and better commerce, let’s focus instead on the sections between Lyon and Main. Traffic often moves at 45mph and stopping for pedestrians is a rare phenomenon.

  3. Mark H. Avery says:

    How about two way traffic just around the post office ?
    This is something I’d think most are willing to go back to.


  4. Bill Maddy says:

    Hasso, Yes, First Avenue(Street) and Second Avenue (Street) were once two-way. From an historic nostalgic perspective, it would be of interest to some people. However, I am not clear as to what the advantages are to Downtown businesses. What are the advantages and how will a two-way pattern benefit downtown residents and businesses?

  5. James Engel says:

    Would one of you please tell me the compelling & necessary reason to even consider this change! From my view IT’S NOT BROKE so why try to fix it! Is this all our City planners have to do with their time is to think up nonsense? What’s the next chapter in this comedy? Absolute balderdash! If this is what we get from City Hall then more back at them!

    • Ray Kopczynski says:

      Methinks you’re reading way too much into it Jim. These folks are not paid city staff. They are simply an “advisory group” of community volunteers who get nothing for their time and effort. They’re simply throwing out ideas to eventually bring to the council for review…

      • James Engel says:

        Ray…whether paid or not THEY represent the City. It’s a nonsense idea in the 1st place.

  6. Ean says:

    There is probably a pretty good reason it was changed to the traffic pattern it has now. It is possible going 2 way creates signal timing issues at Ellsworth or Lyons that lead to longer back ups. Regardless is seems like a fairly expensive change to propose. You’d have to put a new signal pole on the East side of 1st and Ellsworth and restripe quite a bit. I am also curious as to what rationale was used to say that commerce increases on 2 way streets, not denying that is the case just wondering what that statement is based on.

    • Bill Kapaun says:

      It’s the theory that if you slow down traffic enough, that people will pull over, park, park, and shop. They did similar to my hometown. 4 lane reduced to 2 with traffic lights out of sync so that you stop at every intersection in the downtown area. You pretty much zip by the businesses that aren’t in the “entitled core” area. (CASA)

  7. Barbara Branson says:

    If they are wanting to change something, start with the stupid back in parking around the p.o. and carousel. It is just so wrong!

    • Bill Maddy says:

      Why is it wrong? It is just as easy as parallel parking and easier to see oncoming traffic when you leave your parking place.

      • Bill Kapaun says:

        Maybe if you have a rear camera and don’t know how to parallel park! Parallel parking uses the exact same technique every time. BIG SUV’s don’t matter. Back in parking has a different view every time and often a SUV impaired view if it’s parked next to you on your right. Pull in parking at least leaves your car properly aligned to back out. You can use your “crutch” rear camera then.

        • Bill Maddy says:

          When I got my drivers license, to pass the driving test it was required to be able to or know how to parallel park properly. Just curious how people are allowed to drive without being able to parallel park. Back in parking requires the same skill or abilities of parallel parking, I find it easier, faster and safer to ” back in park” than parallel park.
          Historically, Albany’s 1st street (avenue) was once all back in parking much like many European cities are today.


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