Jeramey Jannene
Eyes on Milwaukee

State Street Will Become Two Way

Remaining portion of one-way street to be converted to two-way traffic for safety, ease of access.

By - May 17th, 2018 02:51 pm
Two-Way to One-Way Divide at N. Market St. for E. State St. Photo by Jeramey Jannene.

Two-Way to One-Way Divide at N. Market St. for E. State St. Photo by Jeramey Jannene.

One more one-way street in downtown Milwaukee is set to bite the dust.

The Common Council’s Public Safety & Health Committee unanimously endorsed a proposal from Alderman Robert Bauman to convert the last remaining one-way stretch of State Street, from N. 6th St. to N. Market St., to two-way traffic.

Bauman says he was spurred to propose the conversion after observing the impacts of the Wells Street bridge’s months-long rebuild. The bridge was closed on March 5th, and isn’t expected to open again until November.

This isn’t the first time the city will have modified State Street. A portion of the west-bound street, from N. Market St. to N. Van Buren St., was converted to two-way traffic in 2010. My colleague Dave Reid reported on that conversion and its shortcomings, most notably that it stopped at MGIC‘s parking garage to more easily allow employees to exit.

Bauman notes the proposal has the support of the Milwaukee Bucks, who are required to demolish the BMO Harris Bradley Center as part of the financing for the Wisconsin Entertainment and Sports Center. Bauman’s file notes that the Bradley Center demolition could cause further traffic interruption in Downtown.

The closing of W. Juneau Ave. for the Bucks’ current arena construction, coupled with intermittent intersection closures for construction of the streetcar, has already caused periods of downtown gridlock. A more robust grid of two-way streets would help that.

Beyond helping people move around, the conversion would have another benefit. “Two-way streets actually contribute to safety because they do slow traffic down,” Bauman said. Pedestrian safety has become a growing issue in the city, particularly Downtown as two pedestrians have been killed by vehicles in recent weeks.

Committee chair Ald. Robert Donovan added: “Years ago, we had an overabundance of one-way streets. When it was first proposed to go to two-way streets, it was ‘oh my god, this will end the world.’ It hasn’t been that.”

Since 2000, the city has converted all or parts of Broadway, Milwaukee, Wells and State streets to two-way traffic.

The Department of Public Works supports the change, but a cost estimate wasn’t ready yet.

Responding to a question as to whether the change would be temporary at first, Bauman said: “when it’s implemented it would be permanent, but it might not be implemented for awhile.”

The measure is scheduled for full Common Council adoption on May 30th.

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8 thoughts on “Eyes on Milwaukee: State Street Will Become Two Way”

  1. JL says:

    I would love to see a protected bike lane added on this stretch as well as State St is very wide through this part of downtown.

  2. JL says:

    I would love to see a protected bike lane through this stretch as well as State St is very wide through this part of downtown.

  3. Mandi says:

    Agreed, JL!

  4. Mike says:

    We should also look in to adding more curb bump outs every time a street is repaved.

  5. Citywood says:

    “Two-way streets actually contribute to safety because they do slow traffic down,” Bauman said.
    But they are much harder and more dangerous to cross than one-way streets. Most other cities rely on one-ways.
    With the freeway congestion, construction, and confusion many people won’t even come downtown without these easy to use one-way streets. Wells and State as one-ways were very helpful.

  6. TransitRider says:

    I agree with Citywood that 1-way streets are much easier for pedestrians to cross. They also make left turns easier for drivers.

    If done well (like Madison’s Johnson/Gorham/University), they lend themselves to traffic light synchronization and speed control (if you speed, you just hit lots of red lights).

    I lived in Manhattan (which is almost entirely one-way streets) for a few years, and once I memorized which streets went which way, found it very easy to navigate as a pedestrian and (even occasionally) as a driver—the lights on every one-way N-S Manhattan street are wonderfully timed so you can go 100 or more blocks (each with a traffic signal) and not hit even one red light.

  7. Dave Reid says:

    I used to see cars going the wrong on Wells on a weekly basis. Not anymore. That was a big improvement. And I cross Wells and State on foot twice a day pretty much every day of the year, and traffic is definitely slower. State is still too wide but it’s a less of a racetrack today then it was before. If anything one-way streets add confusions to drivers that aren’t familiar with an area, which ends up with more cars driving around and around. Thrilled we are finally fixing State, it’s abrupt ending of two-ways was so odd and definitely confusing. Back when Broadway was one-way it was very much treated as a freeway and it limited access between downtown and the Third Ward. Big improvement. Milwaukee St. was pretty vacant when it was one way street, now it’s active entertainment stretch. All of these have been big wins for downtown. And carmageddon just didn’t happen

  8. DAG999 says:

    I still do not understand why so many people in Milwaukee are against one way streets. Big cities have used one way streets as an effective way to manage traffic and traffic flow for years. I cannot imagine a city like New York, San Francisco, or Chicago not having them. But then again…Milwaukee is a small town that only THINKS it is a big city. We even have angle parked cars that back out into major thoroughfares as though they are on a parking lot, or in a rural town up north…and risk an accident…and many here seem to think that it is okay.

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