More sections of Third Street downtown will be open to two-way traffic in a couple of weeks. The city will break ground on the planned conversion project next week, with the hope of having work completed by the time the new Omni Hotel opens in early March.
Third Street south of the Kentucky International Convention Center downtown was already buzzing with activity Tuesday as workers near the intersection of Third and Muhammad Ali Boulevard installed electrical lines. A block north, another team had closed a lane to continue work behind the upcoming Omni Hotel.
City spokesman Will Ford said the plan to convert Third Street to two-way traffic wasn’t linked to the Omni’s opening. Ford said it was part of a major transportation plan announced in 2016. But he said it will benefit the new hotel, which will be able to operate more efficiently because of the new traffic flow.
“With the Omni opening, it’s good timing, I guess is what you would say,” Ford said.
The 20-year MOVE plan said converting downtown streets to two-way would “increase the livability of the affected neighborhoods for both residents and visitors.”
Upcoming streets targeted for conversion are Seventh, Eighth, and Jefferson east of I-65, Ford said.
The full conversion project will stretch into the summer and be completed in phases, the city said. The segment between Liberty St. and Muhammad Ali Blvd. will be the first. Next, the city will work on Main St. to Market St., north of the convention center, then Muhammad Ali Blvd. to Broadway.
Third Street will remain one-way from Market St. to Liberty St. including the section that passes under the convention center. The city said in a statement this is meant to “ensure” safety for pedestrians and drivers.
Kelly Kinahan, assistant professor of Urban and Public Affairs at the University of Louisville, praised the plan. She said converting streets to two-way traffic can slow cars down, which would make those areas safer for non-drivers.
“It will make conditions safer for pedestrians and for bicyclists and generally make it more of a neighborhood that’s easier for pedestrians to move through,” she said.
Plus, there’s the convenience factor of not having to drive further to get to a one-way street going in the right direction for your drive, Kinahan said.
Nathan Yulanowski was jogging through the area Tuesday morning, taking advantage of spring-like temperatures. He said he hopes the conversion doesn’t make traffic worse in the area. But he likes the idea of a safer running route.
“If it’s going to make things safe, I think it’s a great idea but I think it’s wise to make it only until Broadway,” he said.
If the conversion extended further south, it could affect traffic to U of L too much by taking away a lane headed toward the school, he said.
This story has been updated.