Aurora is moving forward with a plan to change Benton Street and Downer Place to two-way streets west of Broadway Avenue, but proceeding with caution.
Mayor Tom Weisner said the city intends to hold more public meetings as the plan proceeds to discuss concerns of residents and business owners including whether the new pattern will bring more traffic to Downer Place in the neighborhoods west of the Fox River.
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West Downer resident Fran Caffee said she and her neighbors would appreciate more opportunities to express concerns about the speed and volume of traffic before the plan becomes final.
"Please leave some room for compromise and conversation so people can understand the problem," Caffee said.
The first step toward allowing two-way traffic got the green light Tuesday night from a unanimous city council that voted to approve a $99,402 contract with HR Green Inc. for engineering related to the new configuration.
The company will conduct six intersection design studies, make plans for modifications of six sets of traffic signals and coordinate with the Illinois Department of Transportation, said Bill Wiet, Aurora's development director. HR Green will also incorporate loading zones into the plan, with one of them possibly near Downer and Broadway.
The traffic conversion, which is anticipated to occur this fall shortly after reconstruction of the bridges on Downer Place is completed, is intended to slow down traffic through downtown Aurora and create a better environment for businesses and shoppers.
Changing the streets to two-way traffic is expected to lower average vehicle speeds to between 27 and 29 mph, said Eric Gallt, Aurora's traffic engineer.
"Businesses need a slower, more relaxed flow so that drivers may see their offerings and feel safe to stop and shop," said Dan Hites, who owns the building at 14 W. Downer Place.
Lane Allen of Allen + Pepa Architects at 121 W. Benton St., went a step further, saying the conversion to two-way traffic is not so much about navigation as it is about environment.
"This change is not about vehicles," Allen said. "It's about place-making and enhancing the sense of place for downtown Aurora."