Aggravating the already frustrating traffic congestion downtown, the city intends to close C Street between 2nd and 6th avenues to cars as early as Saturday, officials said Thursday.
Even though an estimated 38,000 cars travel daily on C Street, Hal Rosenberg, a city traffic engineer, said he is confident that the closure won't clog traffic on Broadway--downtown's main artery, which will be under construction for at least three more months.
Downtown commuter traffic on Broadway has been slow and congested since one lane in either direction from 2nd Avenue to 4th Avenue was closed a few weeks ago. The city is replacing asphalt with decorative bricks near Horton Plaza.
"Certainly, one of our considerations at first was that the construction on Broadway would have a negative effect on the closure, but indications now are that it won't," Rosenberg said.
The closure of C Street, where the trolley travels, has been in negotiation for six years and was finally approved by the City Council in March. At that time, the council decided to close C Street permanently at two trolley stops, between 2nd and 3rd avenues and 5th and 6th avenues, and for a 90-day experiment between 2nd and 6th avenues.
Councilman Ed Struiksma, the only council member to vote against the closure, said it is foolish for the city to block off C Street "because it is an integral part of downtown and without it we're looking at gridlock."
"Every street we have downtown is important. As downtown continues to grow, I think we're going to find quite a crunch downtown without that street," Struiksma said.
Although the closure will be only a 90-day experiment, Struiksma believes that the four-block area will remain closed permanently.
"I don't think we're going to get a report at the end of 90 days that says it was a bad idea," he said.
Rosenberg submitted a final study of traffic on C Street to the city manager's office last week, and, if the manager agrees with traffic engineers, the closure will be effective Saturday, he said.
Transit planners see the closing as the only way the street can accommodate the trolley's new eastern line, which will ride on the 2nd set of tracks parallel to the original tracks and allow platforms wide enough for use by the handicapped at the two stops on C Street.