JAMESTOWN – A member of a downtown development organization is pushing for a major change to a well-traveled street in downtown Jamestown.
Jamestown Renaissance Corporation deputy director Peter Lombardi is advocating for changing Fourth Street from one-way to two-way, and believes Jamestown could learn from nearby Olean, which recently underwent an $8.8 million reconstruction project for its North Union Street.
Lombardi recently talked with WRFA’s Dennis Drew and said the effort in Olean not only renovated major sections of Union St., but also reconfigured what is basically the city’s primary downtown thoroughfare. Currently, Olean and the state are installing a brand new streetscape that, when completed, will feature roundabouts, bike lanes, landscaped medians, and a reduction in traffic lanes from four to two.
Lombardi said that all those changes to one of Olean’s most well-traveled streets will help to make the areas around it more inviting for economic development.
“It’s a great example of how the public sector can contribute to economic development,” Lombardi explained. “Other than the jobs created by the construction project itself, this new streetscape doesn’t produce jobs and it doesn’t produce businesses. But what it does is that it lays the groundwork for new businesses to relocate to downtown Olean, because it creates and environment where employees want to be and where businesses want to be.”
Lombardi believes Jamestown may want to take a page from Olean’s playbook, and consider a similar project for Fourth Street – which is currently a one-way street four 14 blocks of downtown – from Prendergast Ave. west to Monroe St. He said that at the time it was turned into a one-way street, it made sense due to the amount of traffic in the downtown. But, Lombardi also added, that things are a lot different today.
“When it was converted to a one-way street 30 or 40 years ago, it carried a lot more traffic because during peak commute periods we had a lot of people moving back and forth across the city between factories and neighborhoods,” Lombardi said. “Today, less than 5,000 people use Fourth St. on a daily basis, and that’s a roadway that was really built for 15,000 to 20,000 vehicles each day.”
Lombardi said that Union Street in Olean currently carries twice as much traffic as Fourth Street in downtown Jamestown, yet has been able to successfully change from a four-lane to a two lane roadway, making the street slimmer, greener and more functional. He said that Fourth St. could see a similar change, but it’s not going to happen overnight.
“There were some ideas that came out of the Urban Design Plan the middle of the last decade for converting Fourth Street to two ways,” Lombardi said. “But what we need to do is raise the money to do some detailed engineering work so that you can go the extra step that Olean has taken, from going from a pretty-looking plan to an actual construction project. There are several planning and engineering steps that have to take place and with Fourth Street, we’ve been stuck with this early conceptual process for too long.”
Lombardi said that currently, JRC is trying to work with the city in identifying funding sources to not only take the idea of making Fourth Street a two-way street to the next level, but also making it an eventual reality.