We have lived on Park Street in the Park Street Row since June 1969 – nearly 46 years now. In that time, we have seen Portland grow from a largely somnolent community still mired in a long depression, to a vibrant, active and traffic-laden city.

Back in 1969, both State and High streets had two-way traffic. State Street, in particular, frequently became clogged. Parking on both streets was roughly the same as it is now. Left-hand turns off either street were difficult, if not impossible. With a rising chorus of complaints, something had to be done.

The traffic engineers advised that there were only two possible solutions:

 First, on State Street, eliminate all parking and eliminate the green esplanades with their trees, and widen the street back to its sidewalks. This, of course, then and as it should today, prompted a large public outcry.

 The second solution was to make State and High streets each one-way, and to eliminate some of the parking on High Street. This was done. At the time, it seemed the only way to save a beautiful street lined with stately homes and elm trees. The elm trees are long gone, but new trees have been planted, and State Street still is a stately street.

We understand that today the principal complaint about the one-way system is the speed of traffic. Of course the volume has increased. While it is not likely that the volume of traffic will decrease any time soon, there are ways of dealing with speed on a street that would be far preferable to creating traffic jams on State and High streets – the inevitable result of making them two-way again.

Another problem cited is the risk to pedestrian safety posed by onrushing traffic. True enough. But at least in the current system, there are gaps in the traffic created by the stoplights, and one can cross in reasonable safety if one pays attention, even at intersections without stoplights.

With a two-way system, pedestrian crossings would become mayhem, with traffic going both ways virtually all the time.

Before we rush into a system that was abandoned because, some 40 years ago, traffic was considered too heavy to support a two-way street system, we should investigate the appropriate ways to solve the real problems: traffic speed and pedestrian safety. There are a variety of calming techniques that can be used to mitigate both.

There are several reasons why going back to a two-way system would create more problems than solutions.

 First, left-hand turns from both State and High would become virtually impossible without blocking traffic going both ways. An engineering report by the firm T.Y. Lin acknowledges that there would be an increase in traffic accidents at intersections.

Those of us who live in the area would be sitting trying to turn left for long periods of time, blocking traffic all the while. Any time a car stops to back into a parking space, or a truck stops to make a delivery, all traffic would stop behind it.

 Second, we are writing this at a time when there is lots of snow in Portland. Both State and High streets have narrowed to the point where, in several places, there is only one drivable lane.

In winter, the streets would effectively be closed were they two-way. Does anyone seriously think that the city can remove enough snow quickly after each storm to solve that problem?

 Third, we acknowledge the desire to force the through traffic that uses State and High streets away from those streets. But there aren’t any practical alternative routes.

It is wishful thinking to expect anything other than a steady increase in cross-peninsula traffic, and that State and High streets will continue to serve as major arteries. Moreover, does anyone seriously want to create traffic jams on all the nearby side streets?

 Fourth, it would be awful if, having implemented the two-way plan again, the inevitable next step were to destroy the State Street esplanades to accommodate the rising chorus of complaints.

Do not rush into the proposed plan. There are better ways to deal with the issue.