KALAMAZOO, Mich. (WOOD) — If you’ve driven through downtown Kalamazoo, you may have noticed all the one-way streets. One of those streets, Michigan Avenue, is a major highway, M-43.
Though any changes to Kalamazoo’s Michigan Avenue are a ways off, people are already talking about what the switching it to a two-way road could mean.
Most days, you can find Mike Rappleye working behind the counter at Bimbo’s Pizza downtown. He's been the manager there for about six years. He said customers can find it difficult to navigate the roads.
"One of the things we see literally all day long is … people going south on Pitcher (Street), they take a right turn and they go backwards down the one-way street,” he explained. “We see it every day.”
That one-way street is Michigan Avenue/M-43. It feeds directly into downtown from the east as a three-lane, one-way street. Those traveling west are directed onto a one-way street heading west, Kalamazoo Avenue.
“We cater a lot to high school students who aren’t as familiar with driving and sometimes the one-way roads make them really nervous, too,” Adrienne Wissner, who owns Memories Bridal & Evening Wear in downtown Kalamazoo, said. “So we have people show concerns and are a little bit more reluctant to come downtown.”
The Imagine Kalamazoo 2025 Master Plan, which was adopted last year, says converting Michigan Avenue into a two-way road would simplify “the navigation and circulation around downtown.”
But some Michigan Avenue business owners aren’t sure turning the one-way highway into a two-way street is the only — or right — answer.
“Honestly, I’m not sure if we would see much difference in general, because most of our customers, they’ll come out in a blizzard,” Rappleye said. “They don’t care.”
“The idea of doing a big construction project right out of my front door is a little wary, but I like the idea of the long-term prospects, of it being something that our customers would really enjoy,” Wissner said.
Any change to Michigan Avenue would require the Michigan Department of Transportation to transfer jurisdiction of the road to the City of Kalamazoo.