Mitchell voters reject proposed change to two-way streetsMitchell voters decided overwhelmingly Tuesday to keep a longstanding tradition of three one-way streets in the heart of the city.
By: Tom Lawrence, The Daily Republic
Mitchell voters decided overwhelmingly Tuesday to keep a longstanding tradition of three one-way streets in the heart of the city.
Voters rejected a referred 2011 City Council decision to convert Second, Third and Fourth avenues from one-way traffic to two-way traffic. The outcome was nearly a two-to-one margin, with 2,754 voters, or 64 percent, voting to keep the streets one way.
Changing the streets to two-way was supported by 1,572 voters, or 36 percent.
Forty-five percent of the city’s registered voters cast ballots.
The streets have been one-way since 1950. The city widened them and improved curb and gutter between 2002 and 2006.
Last summer and fall, the city Traffic Commission and the Mitchell City Council held hearings on the proposed change.
Mitchell Main Street & Beyond advocated for the change, saying it would increase safety and also drive more traffic into downtown. MMS&B officials said they felt the one-way streets prevented some people from driving by some downtown businesses.
Public Safety Chief Lyndon Overweg also recommended the change, saying it would slow traffic on those three streets and increase safety. On Oct. 17, the Traffic Commission recommended making the change after Overweg broke a 3-3 tie, and the council agreed later that night, voting 5-3 to alter those three streets to one-way.
Former councilman Jerry Toomey immediately said he would circulate petitions and seek to reverse the decision. Within a few days, Toomey and others had gathered enough names to put the change on hold and put it before voters.
Toomey, who finished second in Tuesday’s mayoral contest, could not be reached for comment Tuesday night.
He spoke against the street change in numerous media interviews and during a Mitchell Area Chamber of Commerce forum, where he debated Jeff Logan, who favored the conversion.
During the campaign, Toomey said he didn’t see a need for the council action and didn’t believe changing the streets to two-way would boost downtown businesses.
Toomey also said parking would have been a major issue on the streets if a change had been made. He said it’s already difficult to drive down the one-ways with vehicles parked on both sides.
“Even though they widened the streets, they’re still not wide enough,” Toomey said during the campaign.
On Election Day, some voters said they weren’t convinced there was a good enough reason for a change.
“I grew up on Third Avenue,” said Kathy Schroeder. “I say leave it.”
Her husband, Garrett, also voted against the change.
Jeremy Seppala said he was also against converting the streets to two-way traffic.
“Been one-way forever,” Seppala said. “I don’t see any reason to change it.”