“Diet” for Main Street?

Jun. 22, 2013 @ 03:00 PM

One of the most ambitious ideas to emerge so far from the Ignite High Point team led by Andres Duany is to radically transform a portion of N. Main Street.
Converting it to one lane of traffic in each direction through Uptowne with cars parked on the street, trees planted along sidewalks and a strip down the middle that could accommodate a turn lane or trolley line “is what an American street is supposed to look like,” Duany told an audience of about 500 people at High Point University last month.
He argues that fostering a “neighborhood street” environment would help achieve what he thinks High Point needs, such as drawing more young people to the inner city by making Uptowne pedestrian-oriented rather than a four-lane traffic artery where cars speed by upwards of 50 mph.
City leaders say much will depend on whether the public likes the idea.
When Duany showed an artist’s rendering of a dieted Main Street at HPU, applause erupted. But the crowd was not representative of the city as a whole, and the concept is sure to have plenty of naysayers. 
“I haven’t gotten any feedback on North Main at all. I guess until we see how that process will work and how traffic flow will work, we won’t have much to go on,” said City Councilman Jim Davis.
The obvious obstacle to any dieting project would be what to do about the traffic volume that currently barrels along N. Main Street.
The owners of storefronts along a dieted street might applaud the idea, since it’s aimed at driving more business their way. But taking away a lane of travel and funneling traffic to other roads would surely rankle many motorists who use it daily and don’t want to take a circuitous route to their destination.
Duany’s engineers are studying the concept, including the potential impacts on Johnson and N. Hamilton streets, which run parallel to the portion of N. Main Street at issue.
“I think it’s going to take some redirection of our own driving patterns as we go through this, along with some concrete suggestions about, should Johnson Street and Hamilton be two-way again?” said Aaron Clinard, immediate past chairman of The City Project.
Of course, all of the discussion will be for naught if the City Council doesn’t want to appropriate the money to implement anything. Council members say they’re keeping their minds open as they await cost estimates.
“I think part of the issue is going to be, frankly, it’s a tight budget year. We’re going to have to find out how much things are going to cost before we, the city, can commit,” said Councilwoman Judy Mendenhall. “So, right now, I think we’re just kind of up in the air until we get more information about price tags on things.”