Public weighs in on one-way traffic debate near Marietta Square

Safety concerns clashed with business interests when over a dozen people spoke out Tuesday evening about the possibility of Lawrence Street and Washington Avenue in Marietta becoming one-way streets.

At a special meeting to discuss the road plan, Marietta councilmembers heard 40 minutes of mixed opinions on the roads, which run off busy Marietta Square.

A standing-room crowd of nearly 150 residents and business leaders packed into City Hall for the meeting.

Thirteen people testified, five in favor of the one-way plans and eight against. But sentiments in the room seemed to be evenly split.

Now the issue will go back the Marietta’s Public Works committee before City Council is expected to make a decision June 9.

“Will we save face or about face?” Mayor Steve Tumlin said at the close of Tuesday’s hearing.

ExploreFacing opposition to one-way traffic plan, Marietta reconsiders

City Council voted Sept. 9 to convert Lawrence Street and Washington Avenue to one-way between Cole and Fairground streets. The unanimously approved traffic plan was to make Lawrence Street run westbound and turn Washington Avenue into an eastbound road.

But the city has faced backlash from the business owners who say closing the roads off to two-way traffic could hurt their stores and offices. Now council leaders are reconsidering their decision.

Attorney Steve Woodman, whose law firm along Lawrence Street sits just feet from City Hall, told councilmembers there are 40 businesses situated in the “longtime business thoroughfare.” He sent city officials an opposition petition signed by 213 people who live and work in the corridor.

“Residents have told me they don’t don’t want anymore one-way streets,” he said. “The problem is illustrated by the old saying, ‘You can’t get there from here.’”

Both streets include a mix of office fronts and single-family homes. The city hoped that changing them to one-way routes would reduce speeds, improve traffic flow and make both roads safer for pedestrians and bicyclists.

Proponents of the idea argued that safety trumps convenience. They said residential roads like Washington Avenue have become “cut throughs” motorists use to avoid busier commercial streets. Rick Segers told councilmembers traffic along Washington Avenue had bloated to 1,600 cars per day, more than five times the average traffic on other residential roads in Marietta.

Others noted that City Council already went through the process of approving the one-way streets. They said reversing course after the fact due to public criticism would set a bad precedent.

“The results are in. You voted on it,” Donald Barth said, urging council to stick by their decision. “Don’t tell me you changed your mind because the pressure is too high. Move forward with the decision that you made.”