Should Church Street be made two-way?

T-R PHOTO BY EMILY BARSKE A one-way sign directs local Church Street motorists. Some downtown businesses have expressed interest in changing the street to two-way so as to allow drivers more convenient access to public parking lots on the street.

A local businesswoman is working to convince the city council to change Church Street back to two-way.

Marla Grabenbauer of Marla’s on Main, asked the city council earlier this month to consider changing Church Street from one-way to two-way.

The street was made a west-bound one-way by city council directive in 1970.

“A change to two-way would allow motorists to better access the three public parking lots which border the street,” Grabenbauer said. “I believe a change to two-way would bring more customers to downtown.”

No formal action was taken at the last meeting, but Grabenbauer said she will be back.

Chamber of Commerce Executive Director Lynn Olberding said the Chamber Board of Directors will have to study the issue.

“We are in the early stages of getting information and input to make a decision,” Olberding said. “At this point in time we are not coming out with any formal recommendation … I anticipate we would have a statement ready in the next week or so. We will not be prepared (to make a recommendation) at Monday night’s council meeting. We have begun early conversations if this is an issue we will take up. We are exploring it because it was brought to us by a downtown business owner.”

Deputy Fire Chief Chris Cross said he and Fire Chief David Rierson do not have an opinion on the matter, but will follow whatever decision the city council makes.

“We are prepared to follow the council directive whatever it will be,” he said.

The Marshalltown Fire Department headquarters is at 107 S. First Ave., but will be moving to the new joint police/fire facility in December.

Grabenbauer has a strong ally in Mayor Joel Greer, who has been pushing for the change for some time.

In December 2016, then second ward councilor Greer made a motion at a meeting to change Church Street and Linn Street — except for Linn Street by the U.S. Post Office — to two-way.

However, it died for lack of a motion.

Earlier this week fourth-ward councilor Al Hoop was candid when asked about changing Church Street to two-way.

“It would take quite a bit of convincing for me to vote for a change to two-way,” Hoop said.

Councilors-At-Large Leon Lamer, Bill Martin, and Bethany Wirin said in December 2016 they would vote “no” if the item came up a vote. Similarly, they were joined by first ward councilor Bob Schubert and third ward councilor Mike Gowdy.

All said they had received a significant number of support from constituents — and out-of-town residents — to leave Church Street and Linn Street one-way. Martin said comments directed to him at the time were running 4:1 to keep the streets as is.

Gowdy, Lamer, Martin and Wirin remain on the council. Schubert passed away in February 2017. Sue Cahill is now first ward councilor.

“I feel sorry for the Central Business District organization, who supported changing the streets to two-way,” Greer said then. “They have homes and businesses which are impacted.”

Greer said at previous council meetings two-thirds of residents and businesses on Church Street and Linn Street supported the change to two-way.

Greer said the results came from personally surveying the businesses and residents.

He also cited safety — saying he has witnessed many drivers turning the wrong way on Church Street, continuing east and encountering westbound traffic. Greer is a partner in the Cartwright, Druker and Ryden law firm, which as an office at the intersection of Church Street and South Second Street.

——

Contact Mike Donahey at 641-753-6611 or mdonahey@timesrepublican.com.