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Muscatine adjusting to two-way traffic in its downtown

MUSCATINE, Iowa — The City of Muscatine switched the flow of traffic in its downtown from one-way to two-way back in the summer; since then, business owners and drivers have been adjusting to the change.

"I mean, I think you have your normal hiccups where you turn onto the street and go, whoops! I can't go in that lane," laughed Kathy Crosley, owner of The HallTree Boutique on Second Street in downtown Muscatine.

Despite a forgetful moment here and there, Crosley says as a business owner, the traffic flow change has been "very smooth". Initially, Crosley says her concerns were centered around where her customers, who arrive to shop for clothes and jewelry, would park.

"Oh we were very concerned. Obviously, parking number one," said Crosley, whose shop is located within the Pearl Plaza, and on the same side of the street as traffic heading northeast, towards the Becky Bridge.

Prior to the traffic conversion, there were two lanes of traffic - both going southwest down Second Street, with parallel parking spaces on both sides of the street.

"Now when you go down the street, you only have half the amount of parking spaces," said Crosley.

Despite the initial parking concerns, Crosley says the two-way traffic in front of her store has been a good thing.

"I don't think it hurt us at all to do this, which honestly, at the very beginning I thought it was going to be very bad for business, but it hasn't been," said Crosley, adding that her sales have not changed since the switch.

"There were a bunch of different things that came together," said Jim Edgmond, Engineer for the City of Muscatine, referring to what sparked the traffic switch in the beginning.

Edgmond says it made sense to utilize two directions of traffic as a detour for upcoming construction on Mississippi Drive.

"Once you make that decision, then you have to make the decision whether you were going to convert it back to a one-way," said Edgmond, adding that the logic wasn't there to switch it back to a one-way.

According to Edgmond, capacity wise, Second Street doesn't need two lanes of traffic going one-direction. He says studies have shown a two-way street is a "little safer" and a two-way street makes it easier for vehicles to get through downtown.

"The Public Works guys that did this conversion were up practically all night doing it, they did the conversion at night, they got everything set in advance. They got everything done and they did a marvelous job because it went just as smooth as could be." said Edgmond.

Though the stop signs and painted lines have been set in place, Edgmond says there is still work to do.

"We promised the people when we did the public information meetings that we would re-look at how all the parking is done along here and we've got some places that we would add some parking, so we still have that to do," said Edgmond.

Making sure parking is as good as it can be along Second Street is relevant to downtown business owners like Crosley, especially heading into the holiday shopping season.

"In the winter, people really do like to have a close parking space," said Crosley.