For almost fifty years, the two main streets running through the tiny center of downtown Napa, California (the city where I live) were one-way.
That changed recently when crews converted them to two-way streets.
Nothing about the five-year, four-million-dollar project was easy.
The city’s planners surfaced the idea of making this change years ago. In response, some people were shocked that the local politicians would propose such a “radical” change.
There would be chaos downtown, traffic accidents, and a general subversion of everything that made the downtown area “special.” This nonsense, which opponents also thought was a colossal waste of taxpayer money, had to stop.
The proponents of the change were equally adamant. They couldn’t imagine how the city managed to attract a single shopper or tourist with such an antiquated, business-hostile transportation grid. Having two-way streets for the downtown area was the only way to drag the city into the future.
Listening to the intensity of the debate, you might have thought that someone was proposing to operate a nuclear reactor in one of the local elementary schools.
Here’s the thing. We’re talking about two streets, each about one mile long. It might take some getting used to at first, but it’s hardly the challenge opponents predicted.
When I drive on these now-two-way streets, the pavement is smoother and the traffic lights operate a little differently, but everything is still in the same place as before. The Post Office hasn’t moved, my favorite restaurant is still where it always was, and the local coffee shop is still serving up the same brew.
The destination (downtown) hasn’t changed. The only difference is some of the scenery you see on the way in or out of town.
Why am I writing about a street improvement project? For me, this project highlights two important things that can impact any consultant’s success.