Say goodbye to the one-way signs along Spring and Cannon streets
Summer’s almost here, and you know what that means — the conversion of Spring and Cannon streets into two-ways is almost upon the commuters of downtown Charleston.
After years of planning and delays, the one-way corridors that run across the peninsula will be opened to two-way traffic as early as late July. Originally scheduled to be completed November 2015, the project was delayed after it was decided that the Charleston Water System would need to replace a series of water mains along the route. The Spring and Cannon street conversion project will begin with an assessment period, during which city and S.C. Department of Transportation staff will evaluate the change, making any adjustments deemed necessary along the way. This phase will be followed by the resurfacing of the two streets beginning in the fall.
Planning Director Jacob Lindsey says the ultimate purpose of the conversion of the two routes that connect the Crosstown and Ashley River bridges to Upper King Street is to slow traffic and improve pedestrian safety in the surrounding residential neighborhoods.
With such a major change to the flow of traffic and many commuters wary about navigating these narrow corridors alongside oncoming traffic, Lindsey recognizes that there will be a period of adjustment when the conversion is first implemented. As for the resurfacing of Spring and Cannon streets, the Planning Department says the work will be done in phases so as not to block the roadways completely in a process similar to the work recently done on Calhoun Street. In previous years, city planners have implemented a similar strategy by converting other major one-way streets across the peninsula with significant results.
“In 1956, a section of Upper King Street was converted to one-way traffic, to serve as an arterial road, negatively affected the street’s intended purpose as a business corridor. The area subsequently became unattractive, dangerous, and economically unsuccessful,” wrote Clemson’s Meagan Baco in her 2009 thesis titled “One-Way to Two-Way Street Conversions as a Preservation and Downtown Revitalization Tool: The Case Study of Upper King Street, Charleston, S.C.” “Along with other revitalization methods, Upper King Street was reconverted to two-way traffic in 1994. Because of this conversion, the area has regained its status as a cultural and retail hub in the City of Charleston.”
For nearly 50 years, King Street traffic flowed in one direction from Line Street south to Calhoun Street before the conversion. As Baco points out in her research, “Traffic was converted from one-way to two-way on Wentworth Street and Beaufain Street in 2004, and Rutledge Avenue and Ashley Avenue were converted in 2008.”
While the conversion of Upper King Street into a two-way played a part in the retail boom that the area experienced, Lindsey says the city believes the Spring-Cannon Corridor is already functioning well in terms of businesses and neighborhood services. For the city Planning Department, the main goal of the two-way conversion is to promote an overall improvement in traffic safety.
“In general, converting streets creates more routes of travel through the network and helps better distribute cars throughout the city,” says Lindsey.