In September 2017, Powell City Council voted unanimously to approve a permanent ban of left turns at the Four Corners downtown intersection from 4-7 p.m. during weekdays. At the time, council members were not ready to add to the restricted times or days, choosing instead to take a “wait and see” approach.
Now, the conversation on extending the restricted times for left turns — or implementing a full ban — has started again. The Operations Committee held a public forum ahead of Tuesday’s council meeting to let residents and business owners weigh in on what they would prefer to see done in their downtown.
Ed Cooper, who serves on the Powell Planning and Zoning Commission, said he would not be opposed to a full ban on left turns at the Four Corners. However, he acknowledged a full restriction would be much more feasible if the Grace Drive intersection was extended to the south to create a bypass of downtown from South Liberty Street to East Olentangy Street.
As part of the “Keep Powell Moving” initiative, three bypasses of the Four Corners have been constructed to give motorists an alternative option to traveling through the downtown intersection at Liberty and Olentangy streets. One of those bypasses — Grace Drive — currently only connects East Olentangy Street north to Liberty Street. A connection of South Liberty Street and East Olentangy Street has been discussed, but the feasibility of such a project is still to be determined.
“I would be happy to drive a little bit out of my way to avoid just sitting in traffic,” Cooper went on to say. “It’s like being in a (traffic) jam on the freeway. Just keep me in first gear and moving, and I’ll get over it.”
Jim Biersdorf, a Powell resident who lives just shy of the Four Corners, said he, too, would support a full restriction on left turns, saying everyone will have to get used to alternate routes, but that if it helps moves traffic quicker through downtown, that’s the ultimate goal.
He added he felt something would need to be done with the Hall Street bypass that has become increasingly popular for cars to use to get to North Liberty Street. Hall Street connects to Scioto Street, neither of which are well suited to accommodate increasing traffic.
Stacey Haney offered a different opinion and a different point of view. Haney owns The Glass Slipper, which is located on West Olentangy Street, just west of the downtown intersection.
Haney said she was opposed to a full restriction, saying she believed many things would need to happen before a full left turn ban could be considered. She said a full ban would be “putting a Band-Aid on the situation,” adding that not all sides of the Four Corners are equal in regard to how they contribute to the traffic issue downtown.
She went on to say the bypasses work well if someone wishes to avoid downtown, but not for a driver whose destination is one of the many businesses along Olentangy or Liberty streets, in which turns at the downtown intersection might be necessary. In particular, she singled out the Murphy Parkway bypass that connects South Liberty Street to West Olentangy Street.
Haney said that stretch of Olentangy Street from the Murphy Parkway connection to downtown, which also includes the train tracks, is the worst stretch for traffic already. Directing cars along Murphy Parkway to get back into downtown Powell, she said, would only make the most congested stretch of the downtown corridors even worse.
Councilman Brian Lorenz, who chairs the Operations Committee, said he was very pleased with the turnout at the forum, as well as the involvement of most everyone in attendance in stating their opinions on the matter. He said the feedback was “sort of all over the board,” with many favoring a full restriction and plenty more okay with the current 4-7 p.m. restriction on weekdays.
The Operations Committee will meet again on July 16 to discuss the comments from the public, and Lorenz said he hopes the committee will then make some sort of recommendation to council for its consideration.
Reach Dillon Davis at 740-413-0904. Follow him on Twitter @ddavis_gazette.