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Public leans toward two-way Pioneer Way

"One-way bad. Two-way good.That's the basic decision reached by about 35 downtown Oak Harbor business owners and residents who attended a city workshop Thursday about improving traffic circulation on Pioneer Way.The people in attendance got the chance to vote for their favored option by putting big blue stickers on a couple of new designs for sprucing up Pioneer Way. One design turns Pioneer Way into a one-way, eastbound road from City Beach Street to Midway Boulevard. The other leaves Pioneer as a two-way road but narrows the roadway and turns the parallel parking into angle parking.The two-way option, which was favored by twice as many people, will be forwarded on to the planning department and the City Council for formal adoption.Yet lively debate also accompanied the decision-making process and some people couldn't be convinced that a one-way street is not a good idea. Some argued that only a dramatic change like converting to one-way can help save the struggling downtown business environment.The two-way doesn't give us a pedestrian-friendly environment, local developer Bill Massey said. There's just not enough room.Both designs are supposed to make the downtown area more appealing as a place to walk and shop. That means wider sidewalks, slower traffic and more convenient parking. One thing that everyone agreed on is that the current parallel parking has to go.With a one-way design, the extra lane could be used to widen the sidewalks, put in angle parking and have room left over for landscaping. But under the proposed two-way design, the driving lanes on Pioneer Way would be narrowed down a few feet to 10 feet in order to make extra room for wider sidewalks and angle parking.That's a pretty narrow street, Massey and others warned.Of course, the financially-challenged city doesn't actually have any money to implement the design. But John Owen of Makers Architecture, one of the city consultants who ran the workshop, said that getting the community to decide on a general design is the important first step. After that, the city can start looking at grants or other funding options.While any street improvement can only help downtown, Owen cautioned that it's not the miracle cure for economic woes.Street improvements can make a very big improvement in retail, Owen said. But it has to be accompanied by some sort of common marketing. ... And you have to give people a reason to go there. Both options would result in about the same amount of parking that currently exists on Pioneer, Owen said. "

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