Two-way Gray Street nears reality

Nov. 25—Norman's Gray Street won't be heading in one direction too much longer.

The street is soon to become a two-way thoroughfare after the Norman City Council finalized a funding source Tuesday and gave the nod to staff to apply for a federal grant.

The council approved both the use of $8.1 million in proceeds from a voter-approved 2019 Transportation Bond and the application for a $500,000 grant through the Association of Central Oklahoma Governments (ACOG).

Public Works Director Shawn O'Leary said bids should go out in April 2023.

"Current plans for the Gray Street 2-Way Conversion Project call for an ODOT (Oklahoma Department of Transportation) bid opening for the project in April 2023 and the start of construction in June or July 2023," O'Leary said. "The project will take 9-12 months to complete."

The two-way Gray will also see improvements to traffic safety and parking, O'Leary said.

"In addition to the conversion to 2-way traffic, this project will also include some on-street parking improvements, new accessible public sidewalks and other streetscape enhancements like landscaping and street furniture," he said.

The council has approved Main Street for a future two-way conversion, but that project remains unfunded and at a standstill, O'Leary said.

"The estimated cost of the project in 2016 was over $3.5 million," he said. "City Council chose not to include the Main Street 2-Way Conversion in the 2019 Transportation Bond Program due to concerns about the impact of other key downtown projects like James Garner Avenue, Porter Avenue Streetscape and Gray Street 2-Way Conversion. All of those projects are expected to alter traffic patterns significantly, which will impact Main Street."

The council at the time wanted to see how other major projects played out before pursuing Main Street, he said.

"If Council chooses to proceed with the Main Street 2-Way Conversion, I anticipate that it will take five to 10 years from now to finance, design and construct the project," O'Leary said.

The council's committee on Community Planning and Transportation has noted in past meetings that a slower moving Main and Gray Streets would increase pedestrian safety and foot traffic for businesses along the thoroughfares.