October 23, 2021

Workshop gauges residents on two-way Main Street

File photo

A photograph by Dick Billings from 1952 shows a two-way Main Street, looking south, as seen from the corner of Main and Groton Avenue.

Representatives from the Syracuse-based engineers Fisher Associates visited the city Thursday to talk about a proposal to convert a one-way section of Main Street to two-way and what they have noticed about similar thoroughfares in other communities.

There was also an opportunity for residents to weigh in on what they would like to see happen downtown and offer suggestions on not only the problems they see with the existing Main Street, but also where the strengths are and where improvements can be made. Two sessions Thursday drew 31 people.

In July, the Common Council approved using the $70,000 in state funding the city received in 2015 to study the feasibility of transforming the one-way section of Main Street into a two-way thoroughfare.

Tim Faulkner, senior transportation manager with Fisher Associates, said his company was studying not only Main Street but areas around it, such as Church and Court streets, as well as the Port Watson Street/Tompkins Street and Groton Avenue/Clinton Avenue intersections.

Faulkner spoke briefly about the history of how Main Streets were converted into one-way streets, not just in Cortland but across America during the 1950s and 1960s.

“Everybody was worried about getting their car and getting … to wherever they wanted to go,” Faulkner said. “Within the past five or 10 years, a lot of these cities, towns and villages are converting their Main Streets back to two-way.”

Given the trend, Faulkner outlined some of the positives and negatives about going from a one-way to a two-way Main Street.

For example, two-way Main Streets tend to reduce traffic speed. This is a positive for business owners and pedestrians, but not so much for motorists looking to get to their destination as quickly as possible.

Faulkner also talked about some of the data collected thus far, such as the number and severity of accidents in the area and where they tend to happen most often.

Overall, there have been few serious accidents, but rather more minor collisions. The data shows accident rates in the city do tend to be higher than the state average and more likely to happen during peak traffic hours in the evenings.

In addition, the accidents tend to happen most frequently where Main Street intersects with Tompkins and Port Watson streets and also at the intersection of Port Watson and Church streets.

Residents were also asked to point out on a map of downtown Cortland where they thought changes or improvements could be made or what should stay the same. One participant was David Yaman, owner of David Yaman Realty Services, and co-owner of the former Crescent Corset Co. factory at 165-177 Main St., which is undergoing renovations. His property is on the existing two-way section of Main Street.

Yaman said what is most important to him is the aesthetics of downtown Cortland and he even proposed making the one-way section of Central Avenue pedestrian only.

“I think we can make this (street) real aesthetically pleasing, but you would need to make traffic synergize around it,” he said.

A survey residents can use to weigh in on how they think a two-way Main Street would help or hurt the city is available on the city website, cortland.org.

Another public meeting on Main Street will be held in January. The results of the study will be made public in February.