Athens leaders are considering a switch to two-way traffic on historic Court Street

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ATHENS, Ohio (WOUB) – City leaders are considering turning Court Street in historic uptown Athens into a two-way street.

Court Street during the afternoon
Looking south on Court Street in Uptown Athens. [Joel Prince | WOUB]
The plan is to also do the same with the one-way stretch of North Congress Street that runs parallel to Court Street and the one-way block of West Union Street that connects those two streets.

Athens Mayor Steve Patterson said making these streets run in two directions would reduce a lot of traffic confusion, especially for visitors, and could also help out some uptown businesses.

“It’s this three-block radius that’s confusing to people,” Patterson said. “You’re on two-way streets then all of a sudden it becomes one-way.”

Documenting this confusion has become something of a sport at Whit’s Frozen Custard at the corner of Court and West Union. Taped to a wall is a large sheet of poster paper with a semester by semester scorecard — a tally mark for each driver turning the wrong way at the intersection. There are a lot of marks.

Patterson said making Court run in two directions would also give more exposure to businesses located on the south side of the cross streets. As it is now, with all traffic flowing north on Court, drivers only see the north-side businesses that face them as they drive past each intersection.

“People don’t even notice the businesses that are on the south side,” he said, because they would have to be looking backward to see them.

Patterson said he’s been thinking about making this change for years and has discussed it with city staff. The time may be right now, he said, because the city has received a state grant to make some major improvements to the streetscapes on Washington and West State streets, which both cross Court and North Congress.

The next step is a cost analysis for making the switch, which would include redoing the traffic signals now configured for one direction.

“We’re going to be looking at it closely as a possibility,” Patterson said.