Anybody reading today’s (Saturday’s) News Miner knows that Jerry Cleworth of the Fairbanks City Council has proposed a resolution that would halt Cushman’s conversion into a two-way street. While his goal of saving money is admirable, the proposal is short-sighted and would deal a major blow to the revitalization of downtown.
You can help downtown — and, by extension, all of Fairbanks — by attending the City Council meeting this Monday (February 9) and testifying against this resolution. Citizens’ testimony begins at 7:00.
Cleworth is quoted as asking: “Would it not be wiser to try and get some infrastructure upgrades such as sidewalks and streets rather than spending it redirecting traffic?”
By his question, Councilman Cleworth trivializes the value of turning Cushman into a two-way street. He tries to make it sound as if all the money will do is redirect traffic, and thus shows a shallow understanding of the effect of vehicular traffic on a business district.
I can think easily of three reasons for turning Cushman — supposedly our “Main Street” — from one-way to two:
- When a network of one-way streets requires lots of turns and out-of-direction travel, individual businesses suffer. Despite the alleged convenience of cars, people have only so much patience, and they’re less likely to visit a business if it requires turning several times.
- When a downtown is plagued by a network of confusing one-way streets, people are likely to avoid downtown altogether, and all businesses suffer. People like to have multiple ways in and out of a business district, and they like to know it will be easy to navigate.
- When converted to two-way, traffic speeds on Cushman (and Barnette, don’t forget) will be reduced, since drivers (as a whole) are more cautious on a two-way street than on a one-way. This will make Cushman a more appealing place for pedestrians, which is at the crux of Vision Fairbanks. Places that invite pedestrians also invite business, since people, at their slower pace, are more likely to stop at establishments unexpectedly.
The conversion of Cushman to two-way traffic is not trivial; it is a catalyst project that is meant to attract new businesses, and perhaps the linchpin of the whole Vision Fairbanks plan. If you were an entrepreneur, wouldn’t you rather locate your store where people could reach it more easily, on their way into and out of your neighborhood?
I appreciate that Councilman Cleworth is concerned for the wise allocation of limited City money. But I’m afraid that his resolution, if passed, will pound a nail in downtown’s coffin and only fulfill the prophecies of those nay-sayers who have decried Vision Fairbanks from the start.
Please encourage the City Council to reject this resolution. Encourage them to follow through on this crucial part of a project that has received overwhelming community support and that will make downtown again a very worthwhile place to be. Come to the City Council meeting this Monday evening; wear blue to show your support for Vision Fairbanks; and tell the Council members that Cushman Street must be made two-way!