It looks like just another press release from the City of Greensboro about yet another public meeting, but for those interested in downtown development this one has been a long time coming.
The Greensboro Department of Transportation (GDOT) is holding a meeting for the public to review the design of converting Greene Street from its current configuration of a two-way-one-way-two-way street into a plain old everyday two-way street on Friday, Jan. 31 from 11a.m. to 1 p.m. and from 4 p.m. to 6 p.m. at Collab at 229 N. Greene St.
The design shouldn’t be overly challenging, yellow lines in the middle, with broken white lines between the lanes going in the same direction.
But GDOT Director Adam Fischer said that the plans were more involved than repainting lines. He said Greene would undergo a streetscape process which would include planting more trees, adding new lighting and having the sidewalks extend out past the on street parking at the intersections, so pedestrians have less distance to travel. Fischer said when they were finished it would look a lot like Greene Street south of West Market Street.
When he was in his last term as mayor in 2007, Keith Holliday said one of his goals before leaving office was to have Greene converted to a two-way street. Holliday was not successful in that effort nor has anyone else been in the past 12 years though a number have tried. Former City Councilmember and now President of Downtown Greensboro Inc. (DGI) Zack Matheny worked on this when he was on the City Council from 2007 to 2015 and has been working on it since he became president of DGI in 2015. Former City Councilmember Mike Barber who served from 2013 to 2017 was also an advocate for making Greene a two way street and Barber had a way of getting things done.
The current traffic pattern for Greene Street is so convoluted, it defies comparison. North Green Street is two way up to Bellemeade Street and South Greene Street is two way up to East Washington Street. But in the five blocks between Washington and Bellemeade, Greene is a one-way street going south. Even if you are extremely familiar with the downtown street patterns, it is disconcerting to be going north on Greene Street and suddenly at the Washington Street intersection see cars coming straight at you.
City Councilmember Marikay Abuzuaiter said, “I’ll be voting yes, if it comes before us. I know it’s been the works for years. I’m not sure who wouldn’t sign on.”
Abuzuaiter said that she frequently saw cars traveling north on Greene Street go through the Washington Street intersection and keep on going.
That tendency to go north on Greene has caused a number of accidents at the Market Street intersection. Since a car traveling north is going the wrong way down a one-way street there is no light facing them at Market. Drivers can essentially run a red light even though they can’t see it.
Off the record those who have been working on this for years agree that the hold up in the beginning was Jefferson-Pilot because its parking deck had an entrance and exit on the one way portion of Greene Street. But in 2006 Jefferson Pilot was acquired by Lincoln Financial so at that point the issue became the Lincoln Financial parking deck and the new management reportedly didn’t like the idea of having Greene become two-way anymore than the old management.
Years ago the city agreed to reimburse Lincoln Financial for the cost of reworking the entrance and exit on Greene Street to facilitate two way traffic. Fischer said that deal was still in the works and that cost would be in the $10,000 to $15,000 range, which isn’t much when you consider the entire project is estimated to cost between $700,000 and $750,000. Fischer said that along with the streetscape a good portion of the cost would be in repaving the street and installing new traffic signals.
Fischer said that he knew the project had been discussed for a long time and he wouldn’t say what was different this time that was allowing it to go forward. He did say that they didn’t expect any opposition and the public meeting is mainly to let people see how the street will look after the streetscaping and conversion to two-way.
Fischer said that they expect the Greene Street project to get underway later this year.
When it is finished, Holliday should be invited to the ribbon cutting for the project he tried to get completed 12 years ago.