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Taking a closer look at Peoria’s plans to bring two-way traffic to two major downtown streets

Adams street signs.jpg
Joe Deacon
A $12.8 million project to convert Adams Street and Jefferson Avenue in downtown Peoria to two-way traffic is targeted for completion in 2025.

Adams Street and Jefferson Avenue have been one-way roads in downtown Peoria for more than 70 years, but the city wants to revert to two-way traffic as a way to bring vibrancy back to the area.

It’s a project that will take about three years and cost more than $12 million, but the hope is the benefits for both businesses and pedestrians make that time and money worthwhile.

Peoria city engineer Andrea Klopfenstein said the idea to change the downtown traffic pattern originated out of a need to replace the current pedestal-mounted traffic signals overhead mast arm stoplights.

“That was the real start of the project, but we're also changing to two-way traffic to keep people in downtown or wanting to be downtown,” said Klopfenstein. “When it's one-way and you're going fast, you're just really directing people through downtown. We want to make downtown a destination that people can come and shop, eat, work, just hang out and be in the downtown area.”

Adams & Jefferson Preliminary Design.jpg
Hanson Professional Services
City of Peoria
A project rendering shows preliminary designs of intersection reconfigurations as part of the Adams Street-Jefferson Avenue Two-Way Conversion.

Cindy Loos of engineering consultant Hanson Professional Services says a bulk of the project work will occur at 13 signalized intersections along the corridor. She says the overhead signals will be more visible and reduce the risk of collisions, while corner bump-outs with ADA-compliant ramps will shorten the crosswalks.

She said another big advantage will be greater connectivity in the area.

“It’s really providing better access around downtown so you don't have to go around the block to get somewhere; you can go directly there,” said Loos. “On Jefferson, we are taking the improvements all the way to Fayette Street, so you'll have direct access to eastbound (Interstate) 74.”

With the preliminary design phase continuing through the end of this year, project leaders held an informational public meeting earlier this month at the Gateway Building. Among those who attended was Michael Bruner, who lives in East Peoria and works downtown.

“I was watching a nice video here that kind of explained the project scope, what it might look like with a nice kind of graphic that shows parking, travel lanes, and a center lane with accommodations for pedestrians and bicyclists. But (I’m) just kind of here to learn more, to see what Peoria is thinking about doing and how it might affect my commute to my job,” said Bruner, who was encouraged by the preliminary designs he saw.

“I think I'm going to like it, because it's going to feel less (of) going fast, because you (currently) have three lanes of traffic that are, ‘Oh, let's hurry up so I can pass this person so I can get over and make my right hand turn.’ That's kind of how it feels like when I come to work in the morning, where (the new configuration is) going to be less lanes, more maybe relaxing, where I can just kind of take my time and go to work and get there safely, and hopefully, (it will) also allow pedestrians to get places safely as well.”

Also attending the meeting was Pat Sullivan, co-owner of riverfront developer J.P. Companies. He says that while he understands the reasoning behind the project, he has mixed feelings.

“A little frustrated in that we started to do this type of work down in the Warehouse District, and now we're going all the way down to Fayette. It needs to be done, don't get me wrong,” said Sullivan. “But you’ve got– the largest subdivision growing in Peoria is the Warehouse District, and when you start abandoning it and going next door and expanding – which is good, because you're going to need to do it years down the road – it’s not where people are trying to move in now, in the Warehouse District.”

Instead, Sullivan believes the city’s priority with road projects should be focusing on making the streets safer for traffic, particularly near Dozer Park and at the intersection of Adams and MacArthur Highway.

“We have a dangerous lane on Adams in front of the ball diamond, coming up State Street. If you come east, you’ve got to take that dangerous one lane in front of the ball diamond and there's almost accidents every day. In front of CT Gabbert (Remodeling and Construction) down there by MacArthur, they’ve got that ending right from his building and he says there's at least two or three people almost getting in an accident (daily).

“So let's get rid of the accident-prone (sections) and finish the Warehouse District and then continue doing the (downtown). We’ve got to finish what we started and then continue; you don't just hopscotch. Yes, we need to revitalize everything, but we don't have the money. But don't run out on what you've started.”

The city has already secured $1.8 million in federal safety funding for the project. Additional funds will come from local and state motor fuel taxes, stormwater utility funds, TIF money and other grants.

“Everywhere we can try and get funding we're trying, so that we can get the best product possible,” said Klopfenstein.

Project managers are collaborating with the Illinois Department of Transportation for portions of the project, specifically the intersection of Adams and Kumpf Boulevard and the foot of the Bob Michel Bridge. The left-turn lane from southbound Kumpf toward downtown will be switched from Adams to Jefferson.

Current designs call for one lane of traffic heading in each direction on both streets, along with a center left-turn lane, parking lanes and a bike lane. That's an attractive addition for Bruner.

“If I lived downtown where I could bike, that'd be great because I'd probably feel more comfortable,” he said. “Once the (U.S. Route 150) bridge, the McCluggage Bridge, gets fixed, I would have that potential opportunity to bike to work, which would be kind of nice.”

Loos said the project is being planned to minimize impact on drivers as the work progresses.

“During construction, it'll maintain one-way traffic; we'll kind of do alternate intersections on one side of the street, so you'll be able to still get around a block past,” she said. “After construction, then you'll still have parking in front of your businesses as there is today, but people will be able to circulate to easier.”

Jefferson street signs.jpg
Joe Deacon
Plans for a $12.8 million project to convert Adams Street and Jefferson Avenue to two-way traffic in downtown Peoria include replacing the traffic signals at 13 intersections in the corridor with mast arm overhead stoplights.

In conjunction with the two-way conversion, the city is exploring the possibility of converting the Fulton Street plaza between Adams and Jefferson back into a through street.

“Fulton is part of the planning process of this project, but it won't be built as part of this project. So we're looking at it from a connectivity or traffic network perspective, but we aren't going to actually be building it,” she said.

“But the long-term goal is to reopen Fulton Street to two-way traffic, but still make it flexible space so that we can close it down for an event or some special (occasion) that we want traffic not to be there and have pedestrian space. So it will be kind of a flexible space when it reopens.”

Klopfenstein said the curb-to-curb widths of Adams and Jefferson won’t change, only the lane configurations. She said that although most of the work will be focused on the intersections, they will be doing a mill-and-overlay resurfacing of both streets.

She also noted that the city eventually wants to have traffic in other sections of the two streets heading in both directions, and other upgrades could be pursued at a later date.

“We're planning on continuing this one-way to two-way conversion, we just need to get this one done and built and then get the funding to do the rest,” she said.

“We aren't doing major sidewalk improvements; we're just doing the ADA ramps at the corner. So we will need to be looking in the future to obtain more funding to do actual pedestrian improvements for the whole sidewalks through these corridors.”

After final designs are approved, construction is expected to begin next year, with opening of two-way traffic targeted for 2025.

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Contact Joe at jdeacon@ilstu.edu.