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Who thinks one-way streets are bad for business?

Who thinks one-way streets are bad for business? Mayor Ardis’s dad thought so.

In a March 9, 1966, Journal Star article, Mayor Jim Ardis’s father (who also served on the City Council), expressed his objection to the expansion of one-way streets in downtown Peoria:

James E. Ardis, who operates Ardis & Son Cleaners, 518 NE Monroe Ave., asserted that he formerly operated cleaning establishments on Southwest Jefferson avenue but was driven out of business when that street was made one-way.

Ardis charged that putting the one-way plan into effect would be “turning the city upside down” just to provide relief for morning and evening rush periods.

The City Council is looking at converting Adams and Jefferson streets to two-way. It was last brought up in the July 10 council meeting. At that time, city administration said they would present a cost analysis of the conversion in August, although that didn’t happen. A policy discussion that was scheduled for the last week of August was postponed.

The Peoria Chamber of Commerce is opposed not only to the conversion, but even to studying the conversion. In an e-mail sent to council members on August 24, Chamber president Roberta Parks said:

It is our understanding that simply to study the issue of changing these streets from one-way to two-way could cost the city in the neighborhood of $200,00-$300,000 [sic]. All that would get you is a determination of how much it would cost to actually make the changes. We are concerned that the ultimate cost could be very high….in the millions. We simply do not think either of these expenditures is the highest and best use of the City’s limited resources….either money or people – it isn’t even the most pressing transportation or infrastructure issue facing the City. We clearly understand the interest of making both of those streets more pedestrian friendly. But we believe that can be done in far less costly ways. You can reduce lanes, add parking, increase sidewalk amenities, slow speed limits, etc. Some of those ideas (and there are surely more) have a cost but it surely would be far less than changing both streets to two-way streets. We would strongly urge you to NOT to commission this study.

The Chamber of Commerce is supposed to speak on behalf of businesses. But is this really what businesses on these streets want?

The Chamber’s missive to the Council doesn’t reflect the feelings of Tom Wiegand, co-owner of UFS, 1800 SW Adams. In a July 11 report, WMBD-TV reported:

…Wiegand has been pushing for the change for more than 30 years. “I think the street conversion project is not all about business, it’s about the community. It’s about the residential also. When you start bringing business back and it’s flourishing, there’s a natural spin-off into the community and people will want to come down here and live again,” he said….

…”I just hope that this is a serious endeavor by the city and they take it seriously. We really need to do something about this side, this end of town, in this part of Peoria.”

UFS is a member of the Peoria Area Chamber of Commerce.

From the beginning, businesses along these streets were opposed to making them one-way. The only business which has expressed its desire to see them remain one-way is Caterpillar, Inc. In 2007, Caterpillar presented a written statement to the Heart of Peoria Commission stating they wanted traffic patterns downtown to remain unchanged. “[A]ny revisions to the current traffic patterns on Adams, Jefferson, and Washington Streets in the downtown Peoria area would be detrimental to our employees and visitors,” they said.

Adams and Jefferson are one-way from the point they intersect by Komatsu in the north down to Western Avenue in the south–a distance of approximately four miles affecting hundreds of properties/businesses.

22 comments to Who thinks one-way streets are bad for business?

  • Question

    CJ – Honest question. What does what Jim Ardis’ Dad said in the 1960’s have anything to do with this post? It seems you just through it in there for some weird nuanced shock value. Connect the dots for me please.

  • I think the relevancy of the quote is obvious. Did you read the whole article? I could have picked any quote from the past to show the deleterious effects of one-way streets on small businesses, but the fact that this one came from the current Mayor’s own father made it the best quote to use. Nevertheless, the quote stands on its own.

  • Question

    Maybe I read more into it than was there. For some reason I thought you were implying that Mayor Jim Ardis had a position on this contrary to his father. Do you know the Mayors position on this issue? I’m curious.

  • Jim

    So we should spend 25+ million on this while we can’t maintain roads elsewhere on the South end? Why not spend that to put it sidewalks and resurface southside roads?

  • “Question”: I don’t know the Mayor’s position on this issue.

    Jim: What makes you think it would cost “25+ million” to convert these streets to two-way?

  • Jim

    Because that’s what it would cost. New stoplights at each intersection at 150-200k a piece, changing the 74 on/off ramps, redoing the area near Komatsu, putting in the streetscapes, losing state highway designation on one of those roads, and actual road construction costs would easily exceed 20 million. Not to mention the problems with various business entrances, parking deck entrances, figuring out what to do with 74 overpasses and ramps, and trying to figure a way to make the Komatsu intersection safe.

  • “….and trying to figure a way to make the Komatsu intersection safe…..”

    Easy another $10 mil for a roundabout with ornamental lighting.

  • Cameron

    I’m not a fan of “because that’s the way it’s been” thinking, but I see no advantage to making these streets two-way. As far as one-way streets go, these are about the easiest to navigate that I can think of. They run one block parallel to each other, except for a stint past O’Brien field, and even there it would take somebody of pretty low intelligence to not figure it out quickly.

    In contrast, B-N has multiple one-way streets with no corresponding one-way return street.

  • conrad stinnett

    I think the PACC thinks more about the area than they do actual Peoria businesses. I say, two ways streets might make downtown easier to navigate and might improve the downtown as a destination.

  • Jim, your estimate is wildly exaggerated. There would not be any need to redo the intersections, overpasses, or ramps with the interstate. They were purposely designed to accommodate two-way traffic on Jefferson and Adams in case the city reverted them in the future. Similarly, it would not be difficult to alter the Komatsu intersection cost-effectively.

    I’m not saying there wouldn’t be any costs to reverting these streets to two-way, but I am saying it would not be as much as you’re suggesting.

  • Jim

    CJ – I usually agree with you, but you’re off base on this one.

    The number to do this 7 or 8 years ago was 10mm+ and that was just to restripe, relight, and that’s it. It would cost over 4 mill just for the traffic lights!

  • MW

    The part where you include the Mayor’s father’s quote makes no sense. You have yet to respond with what the Mayor’s father’s quote has to do with anything, and in the comments have replied that you don’t even know the Mayor’s position on this. Huh? Either way it’s pointless to mention it. If you knew the Mayor was against this, it wouldn’t matter what his Dad said because he’s a big boy and can make his own choices and is entitled to do so. If you knew the Mayor was for this, the fact that his Dad agrees wouldn’t be surprising and still doesn’t matter. The fact that you don’t know means it’s just there for fun I guess? Still, I fail to understand why this is included in the article. It’s like mainstream news outlets posting DUI arrests of notable people. Why not post the DUI arrests of no-name people too? Why post a quote from Mayor Ardis’ father, but not quotes from other random people through the years on this topic? In other words, who cares what Mayor Ardis’ father said about one-way streets? No one. It is completely irrelevant. Sorry for the rant. I am not an opponent of what you write and for the record, would be happy to see the street change happen. I’d also like to see Fulton Street become a street again, because it is maddening trying to get from the RiverFront to downtown without going several blocks out of the way. There is no connectivity and that street becoming a street again by the ICC downtown campus as well as the one-ways becoming normal streets would both be helpful. In my unimportant opinion. Good day.

  • The Mouse

    of course one-way streets are bad for business. they are there for through traffic, not for people who want to do business on the streets. Duh.

  • MW–It wasn’t a polemical quote and wasn’t intended to be compared or contrasted with the Mayor’s own views. It was a quote showing that the effect of one-way streets was to put shops out of business; ergo, one-way streets are bad. I chose the quote by Ardis’s father because I thought it had a good human-interest angle–it’s the Mayor’s own father that was put out of business due to one-way streets. It’s as simple as that. Sure, I could have quoted Joe Blow (i.e., “random people through the years”), but I didn’t think it would have as much impact as showing how it affected the current Mayor’s own family. I really don’t understand why people are incensed about this quote. All it does is show that one-way streets are bad for business, which is the point of the post.

  • Miles Axlerod

    The heart of the argument I’m hearing of why one way streets hurt business is the speed of traffic, and/or perhaps the non-stop flow of traffic preventing people from looking around? Why not just target that issue with new speed limits along them? A one-way flow of traffic on streets historically designed for two-way traffic I would think affords a lot more possibilities of on street parking (for businesses) than a two-way usage of the same street. Also, if we keep them both one-way there is potential for a really really big roundabout down the road too.

  • checking for details

    Off the topic, but about Heartland Partnerships…..If the CEO resigned and 7 members were let go…does that mean the Councilman Spain was fired? Reportedly he is now at OSF, another organization where he has thrown significant amounts of tax payer funding. Anyone know?

  • Not 1966

    so old man Ardiss had a thriving business that went kaput because the street turned one way. sure he did. certainly there is more to the story than a one way street. 1966 was around the time when people decided it was far easier and more convenient to shop in their own neighborhoods. People, excepting Petula Clark, across the country began to avoid downtown shopping, and smart business people took notice and followed the shoppers. Others blamed one way streets.

  • Wow, that is a really good quote pulled from the archives. It’s funny how right he was now having the advantage to look back. The 1960’s were a time in Peoria where a lot of decisions were made that had a negative effect on the downtown. For the most part, that has led to the sprawl of the city and the decay of what used to be the core. In 2012 we call these “unintended consequences.”

    Density and mixture of uses also played a critical role in why these businesses struggle or failed. People migrated elsewhere in 1966 the same way they do today and for much of the same reasons. Buildings have become dilapidated or have been torn down over the course of time which reduced what little “local” feel of things that was left. What remains is primarily industrial purposes which support the one-way traffic patterns due to their spacial needs.

    Are one-way streets good for the City of Peoria? Look around, the answer is no. So things need to change. Is that going to mean less convenience than putting our brains on cruise control as we go down Adams or Jefferson? Absolutely, but now is the time to get things right. There have been enough studies done on Peoria to know exactly what to do, but a stomach full of courage is needed to implement these.

  • Sterling

    I’m a little curious as to why the elder Ardis’s business folded because of a two-way street becoming a one-way street. I can understand that two-way streets prompt more cross-traffic and more eyes on more businesses, but a cleaners really doesn’t strike me as an impulse stop kind of business like a store or a restaurant. If I drove up Main Street past Mr. G’s I might think to myself “Oh man, I’m hungry” and park right away and go in, but I don’t drive past the cleaners and think, “Oh man, I really need to get this suit that I just happen to have in my car dry cleaned right now” and stop in.

    Reverting Adams and Jefferson to two-way traffic should be looked at from a traffic engineering standpoint, and keeping in mind the context of the neighborhood. South of downtown, Washington/Adams/Jefferson are the only games in town so traffic probably won’t be affected as much, but up towards Averyville reverting Adams and Jefferson to two-way streets may lead to more cut-through traffic through the North End down Monroe and Madison towards the hospitals and 74.

    The ramp configuration on I-74 would be conducive to have Adams and Jefferson north of the highway remain one-way to Komatsu with Adams/Jefferson becoming two-way south of I-74. This would also follow the new alignment of IL 29. A hybrid plan like this would be worth looking into, if only to keep cut-through freight traffic off of the side streets and still moving between Averyville and downtown.

    That said, the Chamber seems way off-base opposing the study itself. While a dubious number of studies end up confirming what the original plan was regardless of the facts, it’d be worth the investment to at least get the facts out there and see what kinds of implication a two-way conversion would have on the City.

  • MW

    Thanks for your reply. It is appreciated. Best to you, sir.

  • Ramble On

    The one way streets don’t bother me or stop me from shopping somewhere. I usually make it to UFS about once a week. There is nothing downtown that I have a desire to go to that isn’t located on Washington Street, which is 2-way. The occasional need to go to the court house is pretty easy. The good thing about 1-way streets is that it is easier to make a left hand turn if you don’t have to wait for oncoming traffic. People get where they want to go.

  • Amazed

    Bloomington and Normal are also seriously considering converting the major one-way streets into pedestrian-friendly, two-way streets.

    As usual, the hopelessly corrupt town of Peoria will continue to ignore “New urbanism” concepts as it quietly morphs into another East St. Louis.