Riverside Drive will remain closed two weeks after Memphis in May festivities conclude to implement a pilot project on the road between Beale and Georgia that will reduce vehicle traffic there and increase bike and pedestrian traffic.
That section of Riverside will be reduced from four lanes of vehicle traffic to two. The additional space will be "devoted to bicycle and pedestrian activities," according to a news release, "to make the riverfront safer, more active, and accessible."
“The pilot project helps the public envision how Riverside Drive could be re-purposed for greater enjoyment by bicyclist and pedestrians," said city engineer John Cameron. "It also gives technical experts a chance to evaluate traffic impacts on Riverside Drive and the Downtown street network as the ultimate configuration of Riverside Drive is determined.”
The new Riverside configuration will remain for the next 12 to 18 months. City officials will study the space in that time to see if the street could be reconfigured permanently from Georgia Avenue to the Pyramid.
Details of the plan for Riverside were not immediately available. But officials said the project is a step toward one of the recommendations in a 2013 report from land-use consultant Jeff Speck, which said:
"Riverside Drive, which is annually narrowed and closed with little negative impact on the Downtown, should be converted from a four-lane speedway to a two-lane 'complete street,' including parallel parking and a protected bicycle track along the Mississippi River. This change can be accomplished through a mere re-striping, with no curbs reconstructed. Canopy trees should be added where they are lacking and can be planted at limited cost."