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Cincinnati: Liberty Street Road Diet

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Liberty St., oh how I loath thee.  Originally the edge of town, above which one could drink on Sundays, etc., hence the nickname-turned-name, today it's a rotten relic of Robert Moses's Cincinnati wannabe's.  The argument for its widening was weak since OTR was killed by cars & social policy and the huge Queensgate factories, for which the bulk of the West End was leveled, were never built.  And of course Central Parkway already existed. 

 

Pittsburgh today is a living museum of how driving in Cincinnati used to be -- totally congested due to a chaotic layout of narrow streets too often meeting at odd angles and often nonexistent expressway access.  Aside from the expressways, Cincinnati built MLK Drive and Linn St. and had ideal setups like the the McMillan/Calhoun duo which prevented the perennial congestion which Pittsburgh's midtown suffers.  No doubt about it, Liberty's widening was devastating and sale of city-owned land currently occupied by its ROW could be a source of revenue and new housing or offices for the neighborhood. I don't think that the section east of Main should be modified, but definitely between Main and Central Parkway there is a lot of opportunity to repair the damage.       

   

liberty-6.png

 

liberty-5.jpg

 

liberty-1.jpg

 

liberty-2.jpg

 

 

Discuss.

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    I would be interested to see traffic counts. Liberty Street seems to be underused. Also, a lot of metro bus routes cross Liberty, and every stop light adds some time to the bus route.

 

   

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Once the streetcar is in place, I wonder if this could be used as another east to west connector (like Central).  If Otr is booming in 5-10 years down the road like I hope,  their will probably be a strong public demand for more lines downtown.

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From the pictures, it appears there are currently 2 lanes + 1 parking lane in each direction, plus a central turn lane -- 7 lanes total.  Is this correct?  If so, what would be the ideal new configuration?  Just eliminating one lane in each direction?

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I have to be honest - Liberty St. is the easiest place for me to find free, always available, on-street parking near my apartment. But I would gladly give up my parking to have the street narrowed. Right now Liberty is such a barrier (edge?), I'd love to have a narrow street and infill development. Infill on Liberty would help connect everything south of Liberty with everything north of it.

 

Also: No matter what time of day, or how fast/slow I drive..if I am traveling east or west on Liberty by bicycle or car...I hit every single light at every single intersection. I don't know if it's poor timing (driving from downtown to OTR up Main St or whatever, I can hit a million green lights), or if my timing is off...but I have never been able to travel Liberty without hitting at light. Maybe better light timing could mean less congestion, and there wouldn't need to be so many travel lanes?

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I have never been able to travel Liberty without hitting at light.

 

I always called liberty the red light distict.  I dread going to the Dalton post office from Sycamore.  You hit every red light all the way to linn st in the west end. I usually take Mcmicken when I head west to get away from hitting all those dammned lights on liberty. I guess it makes it easier for cops to pull people over for running red lights or speeding, thus more chances to search cars for drug buyers/ scum etc.

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Take out the southmost lane and Liberty would be as wide as a Chicago busy street?

 

Any infill would have to be subject to some kind of form-based zoning.

 

 

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Once the streetcar is in place, I wonder if this could be used as another east to west connector (like Central).  If Otr is booming in 5-10 years down the road like I hope,  their will probably be a strong public demand for more lines downtown.

 

The thing is that a massively wide East/West street is not needed for a East/West portion of a streetcar line.  Most all streetcar lines run on typical city streets.  With that said, both Central Parkway and Liberty would work quite well for light rail if that ever comes up in conversation again.

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^I forgot about that thread although I apparently read it, still that thread was not specifically about narrowing the street.

 

One of my observations about Over-the-Rhine is that traveling north/south in it versus east/west is a very different experience.  Specifically, when traveling north/south one is always aware of its place in the city whereas the east/west experience is one of "getting lost" in the neighborhoods.  Specifically I think 12th could become one of the great streets in the city if something nice is done with the Noel's Plumbing property, and the many block and two-block east/west streets are very quiet and vistually terminate in the street wall of the major north/south streets.  Liberty is the obvious exception and it's possible while driving on it to have little idea that one is in the middle of a 19th century neighborhood. 

 

The north/south streets are mostly one-way and can be traversed quickly, it's also less obvious that Vine & Main are the "commercial" strips.  But the mid-block streets like Republic, Pleasant, Jackson, and Clay are all very quiet and have more of an old world atmosphere.  They are now actually safe to walk down and can be photographed without being hassled by drug dealers.   

 

>portion of a streetcar line

 

Looking at an overall view of the basin, Liberty has always been a minor street...even now it does not interchange I-75 directly.  Historically it led from nowhere to nowhere...from the base of Price Hill up Mt. Auburn.  Interestingly there are about 3 sections of Liberty that reappear in Price Hill, they are all residential side streets from around the 1910's.  It and 8th St. are the only two east/west basin streets that reappear elswhere in the city and Vine is the only downtown north/south street to escape the basin.  This disjointment of the basin grid from the rest of the city's main streets is one of the most unusual street layout situations in the US.   

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  Functionally, I think Liberty Street acts as a distributor for automobiles travelling north or south on I-71, I-75, Reading Road or Central Parkway to reach the north-south streets. Since Liberty goes from "nowhere to nowhere," there is little through traffic, and it has little pedestrian traffic.

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I always thought it could be made into more of a parkway, with a planted median, and less options to turn left.  It was never done right when it was widened.  The whole south side is jagged sides of buildings and awkward leftover triangles with ugly billboards on them.  Maybe the parkway idea is wrongheaded, and it just need re-narrowing on the south side.

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I have never seen the need for two eastbound lanes (or westbound) at any time, and that includes me getting stuck at lights constantly.  I'm always taking Liberty to Walnut, which leads to my office.  But it always seems like at least one of the lanes is shut down, or some asshole county sheriff van is parked in the middle of the right lane for a work detail.

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I always thought it could be made into more of a parkway, with a planted median, and less options to turn left. It was never done right when it was widened. The whole south side is jagged sides of buildings and awkward leftover triangles with ugly billboards on them. Maybe the parkway idea is wrongheaded, and it just need re-narrowing on the south side.

 

Personally, I'd rather see a classic tree lined median of unvarying length on Central Parkway.  I'm not sure how much east-west thru traffic goes uses Central Parkway or Liberty, since neither street really crosses through downtown to anywhere else (Liberty take you west of 75, and Central Parkway is really much more of a north/south street).  Particularly now with the new and extremely wide Ft. Washington Way (2nd and 3rd Streets) it seems to me that a wide Liberty and a wide CP are both unnecessary.

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I may have misread this LK but which city owned land are you talking about that exist today along that stretch? If you are refering to land created by a narrowed street, then what of the current business owners along the present road who will now have one off parcels? If you give them a first right of refusal (assuming they have the means) then aren't you saying that we will sell you a surface lot (because what else would you want to place in front of a business like a grammars etc) and therefore making you pay again for what you already have, Liberty frontage?

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^I was merely mentioning that I think Central Parkway is more appropriate for a median than the widened Liberty, but you bring up a good point.  There is no reason to make Liberty more narrow if it will simply result in more privately owned surface lots.

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How about do trees, down the middle, with nose-in parking similar to that on Court Street.  You could then help to transform that whole street by adding curb bump outs, bollards, and other traffic calming measures.  In addition to that you could then add designated bike lanes.  Between those two measures you would shrink the size/feel of Liberty quite a bit.

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The only problem I see with narrowing Liberty is the access to I-471.  If I am thinking about this correctly, it is the only entrance to I-471 from downtown other than FWW.  Granted narrowing wouldn't necessarily block traffic from entering or exiting, but we all know that traffic engineers do not like to "take" away from any pre-existing condition, only add.  It's a cool idea and would add a bit a of a "neighborhood" feeling when exiting I-471 into OTR, but, I will always say this, engineers are planners worst enemies. 

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You can access 471 via 5th/6th Streets as well.  You can also get access a little further up on Reading which does conveniently flow into Liberty, but it is certainly not the only access point to get to Reading.

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Rando I could see that parking scenario working.  As for bike lanes, maybe it would be a nice nod to bikers and impress visitors, but I don't see it getting much use.  I don't think I've ever biked along Liberty other than to jog over one street.  I mean, where would I be going?  Ollie's Trolley?

 

Again I think east of Main you would have a hard time convincing traffic engineers that the world won't come to a halt by completely removing the Liberty St. extension that was built between Sycamore and Reading, especially given the I-471 interchange.  That's where the city could gain the most revenue by putting all that city-owned land out to bid, which is probably at least 5 acres.  That said I'd love to see the stats on how much traffic on Liberty St. originates on 471 or is heading to it.  After all if you're heading north on 471 and want to go to the West End or some point west of I-75, you will just take I-75.  That interchange is just a luxurious redundancy in the expressway layout.  I'm sure it got some use when FWW was being reconstructed, but that's not going to happen again anytime soon.   

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I had no idea that this was being seriously studied.  But I'm very glad that it is.  I think this will be critical for development to move north of Liberty.

 

'Road diet' for Liberty Street pursued

http://www.building-cincinnati.com/2012/05/road-diet-for-liberty-street-pursued.html

 

The new Liberty Street would accommodate five lanes for motor vehicles, two lanes for bicycles, and widened sidewalks. The outermost vehicle lanes would be used for parallel parking, and the center lane would be used for left turns.

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Interestingly there are about 3 sections of Liberty that reappear in Price Hill, they are all residential side streets from around the 1910's.  It and 8th St. are the only two east/west basin streets that reappear elswhere in the city and Vine is the only downtown north/south street to escape the basin.  This disjointment of the basin grid from the rest of the city's main streets is one of the most unusual street layout situations in the US.   

 

Colerain Avenue.  ;)

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One time, I got invited to a wedding on Straight St. I was running late, so I didn't look it up on the internet, figuring I'd just look at my map once I got to King's Island at a gas station (I was coming from Columbus). That's when I realized that there are 5 or 6 Straight Streets in Cincinnati. The wedding had already started by this time, so I couldn't call anyone and texting was out since everybody I knew was in the wedding party. I knew it wasn't on the Straight St. off Central Parkway, but that left ones off Reading, Smith, in Norwood, in Terrace Park and in Montgomery. And they all had churches on them! Of course the last one was a charm, making me fashionably late.

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The City's DOTE website lists Liberty Street Complete Street at the top of their list of projects. Includes a link to a PDF of a recent presentation. I can't access the PDF. Can somebody attach a copy of it here?

 

http://www.cincinnati-oh.gov/dote/dote-projects/

 

Liberty Street Complete Street

Project Architect: Matthew Andrews, 513-352-3284

 

The Liberty Street Complete Street project will incorporate the "complete streets" transportation policy to the redesign of Liberty Street. This policy will balance the needs of all users so that the new roadway will allow safe, convenient and comfortable travel and access for pedestrians, bicyclists, Metro bus users, the Streetcar and the automobile. While the project encompass the Liberty Street corridor from I-75 to I-71, the first phase will concentrate on Liberty Street from Central Parkway to just east of Sycamore Street.

 

This project is currently funded for design and construction documents only. Funding for construction will be pursued when the construction document phase starts in Fall 2014.

 

 

 

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Hope this works...attaching the PDF. Some nice pictures in there, but almost nothing about the actual plan.

 

Edit: Didn't work. Sorry. Anyway, you'd probably be disappointed by the lack of project detail.

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In order to get the pdf to display you have to download it and then open it.


“All truly great thoughts are conceived while walking.”
-Friedrich Nietzsche

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I think this will be huge for the area if they can get this moving.  It is a pretty busy road during rush hour, talking between Sycamore and Elm specifically as that is where I normally am, not really sure about west of Elm.  If they can get more space for more high quality buildings on the south side of Liberty Street, it will change the area dramatically.

 

I wonder what the cost of a project like this would cost?  Can't be cheap. Will be interested to see if Mayor Cranley will support this capital project, and I wonder if they can try to bid with Tiger Grants?  I believe this may work since I believe Tiger supports all transportation projects that increase walkability?

 

Exciting news!

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The only problem I see with narrowing Liberty is the access to I-471.  If I am thinking about this correctly, it is the only entrance to I-471 from downtown other than FWW.  Granted narrowing wouldn't necessarily block traffic from entering or exiting, but we all know that traffic engineers do not like to "take" away from any pre-existing condition, only add.  It's a cool idea and would add a bit a of a "neighborhood" feeling when exiting I-471 into OTR, but, I will always say this, engineers are planners worst enemies. 

 

Six years late, I know, but you can also access 471 via 5th street.  (I don't know if that is technically considered part of FWW, but I think of FWW as the buried highway between 2nd and 3rd streets.) 

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Finally got the PDF to download. Here's a direct link (since UO limits uploads to 400kb): https://dl.dropboxusercontent.com/u/224802/LibertyStreetPP_02_14_14.pdf

 

What I like:

-historic schematics of the city's growth from 1819 to present.

-pin-pointing 1957 as the beginning of city's population decline, which coincided with the Liberty Street widening

-historic photos (beautiful to see the before and tragic to see the after)

 

Seems like the city has the right priorities going forward:

-emphasis on walk-ability

-creating more developable parcels (page 28)

-"The final design should assure that there is minimal apprehension for pedestrians to cross the street, restore the historic urban fabric of the street and help stitch the neighborhood back together." (page 29)

-"Neighbors may be able to meet and talk from their homes again." (page 30)

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I know this has been discussed before but I can't remember for certain what thread it was on in regards to Over-the-Rhine development, but has anyone heard anything new on the "road diet" planned for Liberty Street, I believe starting at Sycamore Street to the east and going to Central Parkway to the west?

 

I am afraid this will be shelved by the new administration, considering the fuss they made about the bike lane project on Central Parkway.  Though it seemed it would open up a little bit more land on the south side of Liberty through this corridor, which I think hypothetically would make it possible to develop new construction that is fronting Liberty Street from the south (facing north).

 

Thanks.

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I haven't heard anything in awhile, but no additional land would be made available. the ROW would still be the same width, just less of it would be traffic lanes. Wider sidewalks, bike lanes, etc. would replace some driving lanes.

 

Honestly, if traffic is a concern with reducing travel lanes all they need to do it time the lights better. You'll be at a red light and the moment it turns green the next turns yellow. You move one block at a time. Time them so someone going the speed limit hits all greens once they start moving and your problem is solved. Why they're set up to be staggered at the moment is beyond me.

 

I do have a feeling however that we won't see it happen for a long time unfortunately. Not at least until Cranley is out of office or some huge development comes along on Liberty demanding it and it's too good of a deal to pass up. Or the developer is one of Cranley's friends. Either way would work.

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Yeah how the lights are staggered is definitely very annoying.  I wonder if they do this on purpose to stop people from pulling off to the side and buying drugs, and then speeding off down the road.  It could be on purpose?

 

Anyways, I hope it gets moving soon, I think it would be huge for the area and probably won't be huge capital costs associated with it.

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Why they're set up to be staggered at the moment is beyond me.

 

Probably because it only works in one direction at a time.  That can be ok if a street has distinct morning and evening rush direction, and cross streets don't have their own timing pattern to try to maintain, and it doesn't screw with pedestrian phasing, or turn signals.  That's why you usually see it only in very simple situations like Scott and Greenup Streets in Covington, because they're one-way with few major cross streets. 

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There might be a reason for it but whatever it is artificially inflates the traffic numbers which would certainly be used to support putting the project on the backburner unfortunately.

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There might be a reason for it but whatever it is artificially inflates the traffic numbers which would certainly be used to support putting the project on the backburner unfortunately.

 

Traffic volume is traffic volume, no matter how fast or slow.  If you're measuring delay or average speeds, then yes the light timing does have an effect, but it might actually lead to lower volumes because it's not a fast cut-through. 

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