DOTE Hosts Final Open House for Liberty Street Narrowing Alternatives

The City’s Department of Transportation and Engineering will present the final two design alternatives for consideration at its third public open house tomorrow night at the Woodward Theater. The study which began in 2013 as a Complete Streets initiative proposed by the OTR Brewery District Master Plan now lives on as a proposal to physically narrow the street by ten to twenty feet on the south side. The new land could potentially unlock development sites along the street.

In its original configuration Liberty Street was once the dividing line between unincorporated territory and the city of Cincinnati. It was a narrow street with enough room for parking and less than two full lanes for traffic. In 1959 the City began to demolish properties along the south end of the street to widen the street to seven vehicle lanes and two parking lanes. The once quiet side street became a thru-way for automobile traffic looking to connect to the interstates and Central Parkway.

As revitalization progresses in Over-the-Rhine renewed attention is being paid to the street. The narrowing is an attempt to stitch back the fabric of the north and south halves of the neighborhood. Because of its configuration it is difficult for pedestrians to cross the street in the provided amount of time and bicycling is unsafe due to the high volume and speeds of automobile traffic.

Initial configurations were many ranging from a restoration of the original street width to preserving the current set up. In between proposals called for a reduction to four or five lanes with bicycle lanes or rush hour traffic configurations. After two subsequent meetings the options are down to two: A five-lane and a six-lane configuration. Input taken from this open house will be used to narrow down to the final alternative. Once that alternative is selected it will be presented for adoption at the Over-the-Rhine Community Council in September.

The meeting is this Tuesday evening, 6PM at the Woodward Theater on Main Street in Over-the-Rhine. The Theater is accessible by the #17, #19 and #24 Metro bus routes, and is within 100 feet of a Cincy Red Bike Station located at Main Street and Orchard Street.

  • Steve Weide

    I am disappointed by the final 2 alternatives as I wanted something with bike lanes, but option 5 seems like a much better option than 6. To me, the biggest issue that needs to be addressed is the speed of traffic along Liberty. The way it is now, cars fly through there at 40 MPH or faster which is unacceptable. Option 5 will at least take it down to 2 lanes and a turn lane during most of the day, which I think will have the biggest impact on traffic speeds.

    • I don’t think you always need bike lanes on streets. You need them where traffic flows at fast speeds or in unsafe manners for bicyclists. If DOTE would have gone with one of the bolder scale backs, then we could have seen traffic calmed so much that bike lanes would not have been necessary.

      Unfortunately, I don’t believe either of these options will calm traffic all that significantly…and you still don’t have the bike lane. Perhaps we can make incremental improvements later.

    • Remember DOTE is limited in what it can do based on what it believes Council and (specifically in the case of bike lanes) Mayor will approve.

  • Jesse

    I would have preferred one of the more aggressive plans. It looks like reduced capacity was off the table, which is too bad. At least parking seems negotiable. Option 6 is barely worth the effort. Option 5 frees up a decent amount of land for development, which is good. It’s a decent compromise.

    Let’s just hope this retains its momentum. Nobody wants it to end up gathering dust in city hall for the next ten years.

    I hope they also put some thought into the road’s aesthetics instead of relying on whoever buys the freed up space to do it. That road is ugly. Some more attractive signage and traffic lights, improved landscaping for the sidewalks, and better lighting would go a long way toward making pedestrians feel more welcome. Maybe even set aside a bit of the new space for a pocket park or two?

    • I just don’t know why DOTE felt the need to preserve the existing traffic capacity of Liberty Street. The whole reason why we’re talking about this project is because the road is massively over-sized.

      Like you, I would have preferred to see DOTE go with one of the more aggressive plans. In fact, that is more in line with what the neighborhood developed in its Brewery District Plan.

    • SC

      I understand why they did it as they are somewhat right- that traffic has to go somewhere. Until we get serious about lowering the amount of traffic IN THE REGION (via light rail or better public transit in any case) then we will still have all these cars.

      I agree that the 6 lane (why did they even give us that option) is a waste of everyone’s time. I myself had preferred the drastic 3 as I want OTR to become a neighborhood as it once was but understand why it’s off the table. Let’s do 5 and get funding for it. Glad to see the OTR community council meeting is happening so quickly after this so we can get it approved and going.

      For anyone looking to vote still, you can do so online here-

    • As DOTE explained during one of the meetings, the frequent, un-coordinated stoplights on Liberty mean the street easily backs up during the day. I think narrowing to 3 will require doing a complete overhaul of the street grid and stoplight system in OTR.

      For now, a 5-lane compromise significantly narrows the street (from 70′ crossing distance to 50′), opens up 20′ of depth for development (that’s a full lot width in some cases!), actually INCREASES non-rush hour parking, and provides the future option of bike lanes, transit lanes, etc. I like what DOTE came up with here.

      Also, thanks for the link… I’ve been looking for that.

    • We have a center city street grid that is largely in tact. This allows for traffic to be dispersed easily. Are both of you saying there are not other east/west streets through Downtown and OTR that motorists can take? I would say there are plenty, but they may not provide the wide open drag strip feeling of Liberty Street.

    • Well, that wasn’t my point, but the implication that there are other streets in OTR comparable to Liberty I think is demonstrably false. It is a major feeder for I-75, I-71, and I-471. I’ve taken to using McMicken to Linn to get on I-75 north, and sometimes taking Sycamore / Auburn to McMillan to get on I-71, but I’m not sure either of those routes is more efficient.

      My point had to do more with the stoplights. DOTE has implied those would need synched and that isn’t in the budget.

    • SC

      I half agree. I questioned why Central Parkway couldn’t be the main artery but someone might get a wild hair and decide that could be wider too (ie. taking out the medians.) Quite honestly though, I fear how dumb people will drive down other streets if all that traffic was dispersed throughout the city. Most are already morons flying through downtown too quickly.

      But I think my point stands- we need better, more effective mass transit if we want to alleviate all the cars that are downtown and elsewhere in the first place. Until then, we’re just shuffling an existing problem from one area to the next.