DULUTH – After extensive study, one of the city’s main downtown thoroughfares will no longer be a one-way street.
Later this summer 1st Street will handle two-way traffic from Mesaba Avenue through 24th Avenue East after the City Council approved the change on Monday.
City plans say it is an “eventual likelihood” that other downtown one-ways will follow suit.
The street was already a two-way in some sections — near the hospitals and near the intersection with Mesaba — resulting in five different transitions between one-way and two-way traffic.
Cities move from one-ways
Cities around the country are moving away from one-ways, as “two-way streets offer a number of benefits when compared to one-way streets including traffic calming, convenience and ease of mobility and access,” according to a report on 1st Street by Alliant Engineering issued in December.
“Local businesses are expected to see economic benefits with having more direct, convenient access to their location.”
Studies showed the traffic capacity provided by a one-way 1st Street was excessive.
“Duluth’s one-way street patterns date to pre-I-35 construction,” city documents say. “One-way streets were designed to move large traffic volumes efficiently through the area; this traffic capacity is no longer needed.”
A date has not been set for the conversion, which will add new loading zones and replace several stoplights with four-way stop signs.
Essentia Health and St. Luke’s were both in favor of the change.
“Consistent two-way traffic helps reduce driver confusion and aids in slowing traffic — which is a much safer environment for vehicles, and particularly pedestrians,” Mike Boeselager, vice president of support services at St. Luke’s, wrote to the council.
“Two-way traffic also helps to provide better access to our numerous facilities located within the four-block area of the St. Luke’s campus.”
The city’s comprehensive plan, finalized in 2018, recommends other downtown one-ways — Michigan, 2nd and 3rd Streets — also be considered for two-way conversion.
W. 1st Street through Lincoln Park was changed to a two-way from Piedmont Avenue to W. 30th Avenue last year.
In 2017 several downtown avenues were converted “without incident,” city officials say.
Part of E. 1st Street will remain closed from 4th to 7th avenues while Essentia’s new hospital is under construction over the next several years. Part of the hospital tower will straddle 1st Street at E. 4th Avenue.