Cincinnati DOTE Aiming to Narrow Liberty Street Redesign to Two Alternatives

Tomorrow night will be the second meeting of the Liberty Street Safety Improvement Study – an effort previously called the Liberty Street Complete Street Project in its 2013 iteration.

At the meeting, Cincinnati’s Department of Transportation & Engineering will present various concepts for the street’s reconfiguration, including five separate options at seven lanes, and additional six, five, four and three-lane options. Many of these scenarios contribute enough additional space to make development on the south side of Liberty Street feasible.

A major consideration, as the project’s title would suggest, is the safety of pedestrians and bicyclists that share the roadway. The current excessive width of the road, coupled with the speed of cars, contributes to an environment incongruous to pedestrian and cyclist safety.

Other elements being considered include pedestrian and cycling facilities, development potential on the south side of Liberty Street, streetscape aesthetics, automobile capacity/safety, and the preservation of on-street parking.

Both current and past public input, like the 2011 Brewery District Master Plan, stress a strong desire to improve the connection of urban fabric between the northern and southern portions of Over-the-Rhine.

“Liberty Street cuts off two sections of OTR,” said Frank Henson, a local cycling advocate. “All other north-south routes get cut up by the expansive width of Liberty; and I support narrowing it, with the inclusion of space for bicycle facilities.”

Many believe that the narrowing of Liberty Street can accomplish both of these objectives; although questions remain about how much narrowing is appropriate, and what should be done with the additional space that is made available.

According to data from the OKI Regional Council of Governments, Liberty Street has an annual average daily traffic (AADT) count of 14,278, which is actually less than the much narrower Ludlow Avenue’s 14,551 AADT in Clifton.

Ludlow Avenue has parking on both sides of the street, aside from peak hours from 7am to 9am where it is prohibited on the south side of the road, and 4pm to 6pm where it is prohibited on the north side of the road. This means that Ludlow Avenue, with its nearly identical traffic count, has fewer lanes of traffic during both peak and non-peak hours.

Martin Luther King Drive, near the University of Cincinnati’s main campus, has the same width as Liberty Street, but carries upwards of 20,000 AADT; and portions of Reading Road carry more than 25,000 AADT with just five lanes.

As a result, one could then deduce that travel demand on Liberty Street is far, far less than its width warrants.

Should Liberty Street be significantly narrowed, based on these figures, it could still absorb its current capacity, and, if necessary, divert traffic to Central Parkway, Fort Washington Way, or one of the many east-west thoroughfares that also have highway access.

Option 7d includes a “shared use bicycle/pedestrian pathway;” and while this widened path is intended to accommodate both pedestrians and cyclists, it is generally considered a less safe practice, as compared to separate facilities, to mix the two due to the faster travel speeds of people on bicycles.

An option that has bike and pedestrian facilities, preserves on-street parking, while also providing three travel lanes could reduce speed, increase safety, provide additional space for development, and still manage capacity based on comparable traffic counts.

The Ludlow Avenue and Reading Road examples disprove the idea that any decrease in capacity would be crippling. However, should demand increase, traffic is also highly divertible to other thoroughfares within a short distance.

Residents and interested parties can express their opinions on Tuesday, March 1 from 6pm to 8pm at the Woodward Theater in Over-the-Rhine. City officials say that they hope to narrow the alternatives to two following this meeting.

  • Bill

    Looks like whoever took that picture was able to capture Marty McFly just as he was heading back to the future.

  • Adam Nelson

    A solution that unlocks land for development would be a boon to the city’s coffers, both through initial sale of land and ongoing tax revenue.

    • Plus you would have less public right-of-way to maintain.

  • John Schneider

    One reason Liberty is so wide is that at one point, city leaders contemplated a freeway connection between what came to be known as I-471 and I-75 and reserved land for that. Can’t give a source on that, but it’s something we heard several times when we were planning the rebuild of Fort Washington Way in the mid-1990’s.

    Also, as part of the new plan for Liberty, it’s essential to keep a path for rail east of Walnut for the day when a tunnel gets built between OTR and Uptown or, failing that, rail travels on Main and Walnut to Liberty to Reading Road. It won’t be going up Vine.

  • Matt Jacob

    #5 makes the most sense to me. The room for development is the key to bridging the halves of OTR and actually getting something built that connects them.

    Eventually you could also add bumpouts to the end of the parking lanes to reduce it to a permanent 3 lanes if the traffic handles the reduction OK.

    • Marek B.

      Traffic will be OK. There is no need for traffic count of 15000 to have anything more than one lane in each direction (and optionally middle turn lane). Beleive me, there woudn’t ever be congestion even in the rush hour. At least that’s my experience with bussy narrow streets of Europe.

  • CollegeHill_45224

    Seeing that $2.29 gas price made my stomach turn a little.

  • charles ross

    Hey that reminds me – Ludlow on the hill needs narrowing! It is a 4 lane raceway between the police station (a mid-century classic) by Central Parkway terminus and the Clifton shopping district. No need for that width. I saw a nut on a Can Am Spyder hit 90+ mph up that hill as I was cruising along at 40 mph. Hot rodders and fart-bikers love that hill; needs calming.

    And now back to our Liberties…

  • thebillshark

    This is a HUGE economic opportunity for the City of Cincinnati if we get this right. My thoughts on the matter:

  • KeepReal

    “…if necessary, divert
    traffic to Central Parkway, Fort Washington Way, or one of the many east-west thoroughfares that also have highway access.”

    Not sure what the author is talking about, or why. Though OTR has many N-S paths within itself and several out, for E-W paths it is limited to Liberty. What are these many thoroughfares to which she is referring? From the east, up Dorchester hill and down Sycamore? Through 13th to Sycamore and zig-zag through? From the west, down McMicken, thereby clogging up that quiet street?

    The FWW citation displays a lack of understanding of its function and access to and from it.

    One must also look at Liberty as both a path through but also a path into (and out of) OTR. Maintaining that role, where none else of this sort exists, is essential.