by Rodrigo Torrejon
The corner of Passaic and State streets. (Photo: Rodrigo Torrejon/NorthJersey.com)
HACKENSACK—On Wednesday, the city will begin the process of converting the first of two major streets from one-way into two-way arteries.
The project will turn State Street and Main Street into two-way streets. It is among the latest steps in the downtown development push for the city.
The switch will have “huge benefits to the revitalization efforts,” said city planner Fran Reiner of DMR Architects.
“It slows traffic. It’s safer for pedestrians. Drivers tend to drive slower because of oncoming traffic,” Reiner said.
According to the notice of construction from Boswell Engineering, the project will move from north to south on State Street, from Passaic Street to Essex Street. The State Street conversion will take an estimated four months to complete.
Once work is complete on State Street, the Main Street conversion will start. It’s estimated that project will go until August 2018.
Work will include new concrete sidewalks and curbs, underground conduit, traffic signals and handicap ramps. Director of redevelopment Al Dib said the $4.45 million contract for the work was awarded to New Prince Concrete Construction Co. of Hackensack.
The conversion projects were necessary to attract developers, said members of the City Council. According to Deputy Mayor Kathleen Canestrino, it was essentially a non-negotiable point.
“This was key to us having the development happen on Main Street,” Canestrino said at a June council meeting. “We were pretty much told flat-out: You keep this a one-way Main Street, we’re not coming here and investing this kind of money. Because it’s not going to be successful.”
The projects have more to do with business owners wanting two-way mobility and a revitalization of the downtown economy, according to Dib and Reiner.
“From having worked on Main Street for the better part of the decade, the overwhelming sense I got from merchants on the street was the two-way system was better,” Dib said.
The conversion also has to do with planning history, Reiner said. The city had experienced the “doughnut effect,” Reiner said, a planning term that describes a central business district becoming empty as residents move to the outskirts.
“A lot of cities and municipalities converted their downtowns from two-way to one-way—it had a lot to do with how cities and towns were planned,” said Reiner. “The idea was ‘How do we get people out of the city as quickly as possible and into suburbs?’ ”
Dib said the conversion of Main Street, formerly an entirely two-way street, to a primarily one-way street was completed in 1974.
Since then, as part of the new municipal planning model, there has been a pivot to “mixed-use living,” with retail and residential units in the same buildings. Mixed-use developments have been the cornerstone of the city’s push to revitalize the downtown.
“What’s happened over the last 15 to 20 years is there’s this renaissance in how people want to live their lives,” Reiner said. “People started wanting mixed uses and to live in these mixed-use environments.”
The city intends to keep State Street open during construction, said Dib. Parking will be among the elements affected by the change.
Mayor John Labrosse said the city will introduce tandem parking, where two cars park back to back. He said the city would be reducing the number of parking spots. He also said buses will no longer run on Main Street after the conversion.
This article originally appeared on NorthJersey.com.