After much debate, Columbus Council passed a resolution Tuesday morning to reduce the number of main travel lanes on 13th Street from four to two to help revitalize the area.
The vote passed 8 to 2. Councilors Judy Thomas and Bruce Huff were opposed.
Developers hope reducing lanes, slowing traffic, adding on-street parking and encouraging pedestrians would bring new life to one of the city’s main corridors between midtown and downtown.
Richard Hall, a Tallahassee-based urban designer and transportation engineer, has been working with Midtown Inc. and other community and city leaders to capitalize on a state-funded re-striping and repaving project on 13th Street, the east-west corridor that serves as a major gateway between Phenix City and Columbus.
The Georgia Department of Transportation was already slotted to resurface and re-stripe the road in 2019, giving Columbus what advocates like Hall and Midtown Inc. say is a generational opportunity to change the way the road is used — all without using the city money.
Each outside lane would be transformed into on-street parking, and the center lane would be used for medians and turning lanes. On the bridge across the train tracks, the outermost lanes would be blocked off from traffic and re-striping would turn some travel lanes into turn-only lanes.
Councilor Judy Thomas was the strongest critic of the proposal when it was presented to council in January.
“I shudder to think what will happen with the traffic that comes down that 13th Avenue hill onto what you have shown here as a one lane, 25 mph road,” Thomas said at the time.
“It’s a beautiful rendition that you have put up there,” she told Hall. “I like it, I wish we could do it. I’m just not convinced that we should take half a mile out of this 12-mile corridor and reduce it ... and it will continue to serve the purposes.”
Hall pointed to a pilot test of lane closures in summer 2017 that he says indicates the road could handle a reduced load of traffic.
“It will work, if you narrow it to two lanes of active traffic. Those are the engineering conclusions, and the GDOT engineers we’ve spoken to agreed with this analysis,” he said.
Stay with the Ledger-Enquirer as more information becomes available.