Ask Us: Why are some downtown streets still one-way?

Published 2:50 am Monday, October 5, 2020

Editor’s note: Ask Us is a weekly feature published online Mondays and in print on Tuesdays. We’ll seek to answer your questions about items or trends in Rowan County. Have a question? Email it to

While it’s unclear why and when some downtown streets were first made one-way, the setup remains in place partially because it allows for on-street parking.

A Salisbury Post reader asked about the purpose of one-way streets in the downtown area, with notable examples being Jackson and North Church streets from West Liberty to West Horah streets as well as West Council and West Bank streets from Main to Fulton streets. The one-way streets are outdated and create longer drives, the reader wrote.

City engineer Wendy Brindle said, while she’s not certain of the specific history, a popular treatment for traffic congestion in the city at one time was one-way pairs. It meant one street would run north and the adjacent one would run south. Jackson and Church streets are good examples of this, Brindle said. Both are also one-lane streets, containing parking spaces in place of additional travel lanes.

“The reason some streets have remained one-way in Salisbury is primarily to accommodate traffic volumes while still providing on-street parking,” Brindle said.

Brindle said Council and Church streets are good examples of one-way streets providing convenient parking. West Council Street, for example, provides parking adjacent to the city of Salisbury’s office building and one-stop shop, Rowan Museum, St. Luke’s Episcopal Church and downtown offices. The street also is a short walk from the Rowan County Courthouse.

Parking on Church Street allows for a short walk to the Rowan County Detention Center, Rowan County Administration Building, St. John’s Lutheran Church, Salisbury Post, Rowan County United Way, Rowan Public Library, First United Methodist Church and, eventually, Bell Tower Green Park.

While the city of Salisbury makes street-related decisions, it was critically important to use nearby on-street parking in the design for Bell Tower Green Park, said Jason Walser, of the Blanche and Julian Robertson Foundation and the park’s board. The project is turning a city block that previously contained one of the most-utilized parking lots during large downtown events into a central park for the city, thereby deleting a significant portion of downtown’s parking inventory. The park has raised millions in private funding to make the renovations.

“When parking rose to the top of our considerations for park design, maximizing perimeter parking became a focus. And in order to maximize parking spaces, diagonal parking around the periphery of the park made the most sense,” Walser said.

Walser said the park’s developers considered the possibility of making a portion of Fisher Street one-way, but backed off of the idea after talking to Rowan Public Library staff and nearby churches.

Historian Ed Clement said he doesn’t remember a time when current one-way streets in downtown where two-way, but there was a movement several decades ago in the downtown area related to one-way streets.

Similarly, Harold Poole, who worked for the city of Salisbury for more than three decades, including time as the senior planner, said he doesn’t recall a time when Church, Jackson or Council streets were two-way.