Charlotte Mayor Tim Lewis sparked some interest last week in the city’s efforts to change the traffic footprint of the 100 and 200 blocks of South Cochran Avenue. Lewis discussed the potential plan for traffic calming measures, which he has been discussing with officials from the Michigan Department of Transportation (M-DOT) for more than a year, in an online interview with WKAR public radio.
In the interview, Lewis said he misspoke when saying parking along Cochran Avenue would be eliminated. The real hot-button issue, however, was the statement that semi-trucks would be discouraged from travelling through downtown Charlotte.
“This project is not a truck issue,” Lewis said, “It’s a matter of a need to rebalance the traffic we see downtown. The whole purpose of this program, going from four lanes to three lanes, is to restore the balance between the traffic coming through downtown and the pedestrian traffic businesses rely on.”
Lewis said Thursday, July 13 city officials expect to see an engineered rendering for potential traffic calming measures for the 100 and 200 blocks of South Cochran Avenue by the end of August. Preliminary renderings include bump outs at the southern corners of Cochran and Lawrence avenues, all corners at Cochran Avenue and Lovett Street and the northern corner of Cochran Avenue and Seminary Street. The current four-lane configuration has been taken down to three lanes — one northbound, and one southbound lane with a turn lane located at the corner of Cochran and Seminary, Cochran and Lovett, and Cochran and Lawrence.
Lewis said semi-trucks would still have every right to travel through downtown Charlotte if the city moves forward with the project.
“I’m sensing the vast majority of semi-truck traffic is on a direct route through town,” Lewis said. “If you look at the history of Charlotte, I think you’ll find there used to be more of a balance between auto and pedestrian traffic. In my mind currently, I believe downtown is dominated by trucks, especially between 10 a.m. and 3 p.m. and is out of balance with pedestrians.”
Lewis said the project, however, will ultimately be decided by M-DOT, the citizens of the Charlotte and the Charlotte City Council.
Once the city receives the renderings, which are being put together by the engineering firm Beckett and Raeder, they will go to M-DOT for approval. Once approved at the state level, Lewis said the plan will be taken to the public for community input.
“The basis of this project, from the start, comes from an issue our businesses and citizens had a strong interest in,” Lewis said. “I go into this project wide open, wanting as much input as possible. If the city or businesses want to walk away from this that’s what I want to hear. I very passionately want the people of the city to think this through. They are the ones who will be impacted by this whether we leave it as is, or move forward with some kind of plan.”
Lewis said no cost estimates have been put together for the project as it is still in the planning process.