Mixed Signals From Business Owners On Two-Way 3rd Ave

Sturgeon Bay business owners and operators are split, just as they have been for years, on the recent switch to two-way traffic on Third Avenue in Door County’s only city.

Wilkins and Olander clothing store owner Carol Overland said the switch to two-way traffic has been great for business.

“We have a ton more traffic coming in,” Overland said. “This way, it’s a lot more tourist friendly. They way it used to be, people would come off the bridge look down Third Avenue and see this big DO NOT ENTER sign and traffic would be routed around the downtown. Now there’s an increase in traffic.”

Alternatively, On Deck Clothing Store owner Mitch Larson said he has seen business decrease since the switch to two-way traffic.

“We have received unanimous complaints that there is no place to park from our customers,” Larson said. “Traffic is ridiculous. By the time visitors get to ‘Where can we park?,’ they just kind of head out of town.”

Larson owns and operates three On Deck stores – one in Fish Creek, one in Sister Bay, and one on the corner of Third Avenue and Jefferson Street. He said sales for the two northern stores are on par, but sales at his Sturgeon Bay location are down.

“We were up every single week, including the first week the city switched the traffic flow, and were having our best season ever at the Sturgeon Bay store,” Larson said. “We went into week two and everything got discombobulated, and every week since, sales have gone down.”

City Engineer Tony Depies said the traffic on Third Avenue is definitely moving slower, however, the reduced speeds have benefits.

“This gives people an opportunity to look into business windows,” Depies said. “Unexpectedly, traffic has slowed to a point where people still feel comfortable jaywalking. It is no longer a race from stop sign to stop sign, because they are at every block. Cars now travel at more of a maximum speed of 20 mph rather than an average speed of 20 mph. My whole concern is for the pedestrian, and if the pedestrians aren’t complaining, neither will I.”

The decision on whether to make Third Avenue a two-way street permanently is up to the City Council, Depies said. He did question the viability of one-way traffic on surrounding city streets.

“If Third Avenue is for two-way traffic, do we want to make the side streets two-way?” Depies questioned. “My initial thought is to say yes. If Third and Fourth Avenues are not a one-way pair, I don’t think we need Louisiana and Kentucky Streets being a one-way pair. ”

The three reconstruction projects on Michigan Street are making good progress, or are completed, according to a weekly construction update report from Depies. His latest report was dated July 10. These projects are the reasons for the switch to two-way traffic on Third Avenue.

The AT&T cable-laying project is completed; the Michigan Street bridge repairs continue with deck demolition and repairs;

Sturgeon Bay Utilities work is scheduled for completion the first week of August. After that, Vinton Construction will begin storm sewer construction and then paving of the road. The city contract with Vinton requires all work be finished by the end of October and Michigan Street accessible for vehicular traffic.

Police Chief Dan Trelka said the switch has not led to any more vehicle accidents than normally occur on Third Avenue, and the department has not heard much feedback on the new traffic flow. Visitors are still traveling the wrong way down one-way streets, he said, and the only complaint he’s heard is that parallel parking now stops traffic, where before drivers could switch lanes to go around someone trying to park.

Businesses who rely on getting around town quickly are enjoying the ease of travel. Jenny Neitzke, a floral designer at Sturgeon Bay Florist, said that business coming through their doors has increased.

“Getting around town is much easier for us,” Neitzke said. “We are not circling the city to get to our destination. It’s cut our drive time for deliveries in half.”