Downtown plans call for fewer lanes on Riverside Drive

MEMPHIS, Tenn. — The plans to revamp the Memphis riverfront involve big changes for Riverside Drive that could impact traffic for the whole city.

The busy downtown street currently has four lanes, but if planners have their way, there could only be two.

“You’re gonna have a traffic problem," said Tom Lee Park visitor Walter Scurlock. "It needs to be a four-way street because if you get anybody down here, they will not be able to maneuver.”

The city already tried this in 2014, and it didn’t work. At that time, Mayor A.C. Wharton said the number of crashes increased.

But this time, Carol Coletta with the Memphis River Parks Partnership said it was part of a bigger plan that keeps traffic moving.

Models show how two of the lanes would be used for parking on the east side of the street.

"We are not going to allow any left turns off of Riverside Drive between Georgia and Beale. When you eliminate the left turns, you eliminate any reason for people to slow down,” she said.

Officials always want to change traffic to improve safety.

"What we want to do is slow the traffic down a little bit so people can make an easier crossing from Downtown to the riverfront and back again,” Coletta said.

City Council got a look at the plans Tuesday, and Council member Jamita Swearengen still had concerns, especially about Riverside Drive.

"That’s going to be interesting because previously they have not been able to digest that. When I say 'they,' I mean the residents downtown as well as constituents of Memphis living downtown and other areas," Swearengen said.

"It’s going to cause a lot of congestion for sure," another park visitor said.

Coletta says there’s still time to make adjustments to the plans, but they’re hoping to break ground in June.

Plans for Tom Lee Park show a two-lane Riverside Drive with some of the former roadway becoming parking.

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