STERLING, Ill. — The conclusion of a Sterling construction project, the newly expanded 1st Avenue reopened Friday morning, Dec. 10.
1st Avenue is now a two-way street spanning from 5th Street to Le Fevre Road, according to a news release from the City of Sterling. The stretch features new traffic signals, signs and lane markings that include turn arrows and a yellow broken centerline.
Scott Shumard, Sterling City Manager, said this wraps up a $2.5 million dollar project that began over the summer to fix a road that "was in dire need of a complete rebuild."
Not only is it now a two-way street, but it was also widened, allowing cars to park on both sides, and there are new sidewalks and fire hydrants.
"If we had just repaved it, left it as a one way, it probably would have become a racetrack," Shumard said. "It's all residential, single family homes all the way down the road, so we really just wanted to restore a neighborhood character back into the street."
A 2015 study out of Louisville, Kentucky, found that one-way streets often are unsafe for bicycle and pedestrian crossings, and two-way streets are beneficial in that they can increase traffic flow and property value of homes nearby and can decrease car crashes, collisions and crimes that take place there.
"The traffic volume on 1st Avenue through a residential neighborhood was really high," Shumard said. "It's one block off of the state highway, we really wanted to make sure traffic was going on to the state highway and not running through the residential neighborhoods so that it can be more of a place where you can feel a little safer with your kids in the front yard and not worry about what could happen."
Sterling has a long-term goal to get rid of its one-way streets surrounding the downtown area, according to Shumard. He doesn't see a major change happening any time soon but said 1st Avenue is a good start.
City ordinances show 1st Avenue has been a one-way since 1955, Shumard said. One-ways are good for traffic, but not commerce, he added.
"The one ways were good, because at the time, 50 years ago, there was a lot of manufacturing jobs on the riverfront, so when shift time came, it was very advantageous to move a lot of people out quickly, but those industries don't exist any longer," he said. "So now it's more okay, how can we preserve downtown? How can we enhance it? How can we enhance the neighborhoods? And that's where this shift kid of happens as far as our thoughts on what to do with the one-ways."
However, not all the neighbors were behind the project.
"It was very divided as far as what they wanted to do, and part of it was fear of the unknown," Shumard said. "Some people thought it was going to be too confusing, were some of the concerns, but we also pointed out that there's already a lot of wrong way traffic on the one way."
One neighbor told News 8 he's not a fan of the new two-way 1st Avenue. He said he thinks there's more traffic on it now, and more people are driving down it to avoid nearby Locust Street. He also doesn't like that cars can park on both sides of the street. He thinks it makes the lanes narrower, and it's hard to maneuver around if a parked car has its door open while another car is driving down the opposite lane.
In the release, the City of Sterling urged drivers to use caution and travel at reduced speeds on 1st Avenue as the public grows accustom to the change.