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On July 3, 2005, the City of Alma officially went from one-way streets to two-way streets on Superior and Center Streets. The project completion marked years of planning.
A Brief History
In 1997 the Alma Downtown Development Authority and the City of Alma felt that something needed to be done to revitalize the central business district. Private dollars were raised along with City dollars to hire HyettPalma, a nationally known downtown consultant group as an outside observer to develop an Economic Enhancement Strategy for downtown Alma. In the strategy, HyettPalma recommended a course of action that included a number of changes to create the most attractive business and investment environment possible. The first of these changes involved the restoration of the two-way street system with in the CBD.
Following the recommendations of HyettPlama the engineering firm of NcNamee, Porter, and Seeley was hired to look at the feasibility of converting the current three lane system to a bi-directional one lane system with a center turning lane while maintaining parallel parking. Also they were charged with looking at the traffic volumes at peak weekday hours with the current configuration and the proposed bi-directional one lane with center turning lane and the evaluation of parking throughout CBD. The study area included Pine to Wright, Downie to Center.
The traffic study found the following noteworthy results:
1.) Under existing traffic patterns, each signalized intersection along Superior Street and Center Street operate at Level of Service B. Under level of service B the average stopped delay per vehicle is 5 to 15 seconds. After the conversion to two-way the level of service analysis shows that the busiest intersection of Superior and Wright would still operate at a level of service C, which is 15-25 second stopped delay/vehicle. So even after the conversion at the busiest intersection we still will operate above level of service D which is a stopped delay of 25 40 seconds per vehicle. Level of service D is considered acceptable traffic delays by traffic engineers in urban areas.
2.) There are 1250 parking spaces in the CBD, which includes parallel parking, municipal parking lots, and private parking lots. A conversion to two-way operation may result in the loss of one parking space on the south side of Superior Street at each intersection, resulting in a loss of no more then 5 parking spaces. It is also possible that the downtown would not lose any parking. For example, in Bay City they considered removing parking spaces for turning movements and found that it wasn't needed. That is probably why the traffic study indicates that the conversion may result in the loss of some parking spaces.
3.) An estimated 613 parking spaces are occupied during the peak parking demand period, which includes parallel, municipal off-street, and private off-street parking lots. The study also looked at angled parking, which could be added on one side of Gratiot Street. All the other streets are too narrow to allow angle parking.
Given the above conclusions regarding the levels of service and parking in downtown, it is helpful to look at the traffic counts during the peak hours. The counts were done on Tuesday April 28, 1998 and Thursday, July 16, 1998 from 7 am to 9 am and 4 pm to 6 pm. It was found that the evening peak hours were higher then the morning peak so the analyses was performed on the evening peak hours to represent the worst-case traffic conditions.
Traffic Volumes at Signalized Intersections PM Peak Hour 4 pm to 6 pm
|Superior & Wright
|Superior & State
|Superior & Woodworth
|Superior & Pine
|Center & Woodworth
|Center & State
As you can see, when the traffic flows are redistributed using the surveyed traffic volumes, turning movements at signalized intersections would not significantly change. Now that is not to say some people will look for an alternative route if they can but looking at level of service only going to a C, motorist are only looking at an extra minute or two to get through downtown.
With the HyettPalma recommendation to change the street and the completed traffic study in hand, the DDA put together a presentation advocating the restoration of two-way streets with the present street widths. The presentation was made at the service clubs and other organizations. Ultimately the presentation was brought to the City Commission recommending the two-way streets system a part of the overall revitalization effort and requested a public hearing.
At the public hearing in February 1999, the presentation was given again along with a door to door survey of those in downtown in favor of or against the conversion. In late 1998 and early 1999 there were a total of 101 businesses on the Superior /Center Street loop. Out of the 101 businesses the DDA was able to make contact with 91 of them. The following is a brief breakdown of the results of the 91 surveyed. A) Those who are in favor of two-way streets 58 or 63.74%, B) Those who are not in favor of two-way streets 11 or 12.07% and C) Those who do not have an opinion or either way is fine with them 22 or 24.17%.
At the public hearing to consider the conversion, MDOT representatives raised concerns about safety and at the time would not endorse the change. Ultimately MDOT gave its approval for the conversion of the streets with the stipulation that Center Street be the sole business route and jurisdiction of Superior Street go to the City. Official notification was received April 28, 1999, which happened to coincide with the UDS announcement to close the refinery. With an uncertain financial future the street conversion was moved back on the priority list. Finally, the project was completed.