Although the decision is not yet official, the city of Hillsboro appears ready to scrap its system of one-way streets downtown and return to a two-way network as part of an effort to revitalize the downtown business district.

On Tuesday evening, a sharply divided Hillsboro City Council voted to go forward with reconfiguring the orientation of streets in the downtown core from one-way to two-way, which they have not been since 1968. But it took an “overtime” period before the vote was decided.

The vote was historic not only for the changes it will usher in for downtown Hillsboro, but because it represented the first time Mayor Jerry Willey has been called upon to cast a tie-breaking vote. In Hillsboro’s system of government, the mayor does not vote as part of the council except in the case of a tie.

When the council deadlocked at 3-3 on the issue — councilors Megan Braze, Darell Lumaco and Fred Nachtigal believe the current system is working effectively, while Aron Carleson, Steve Callaway and Olga Acuna think the change will inject new life into the downtown core — Willey was called upon to decide the issue.

“This is the first time in my six years where the decision falls upon the mayor,” said Willey. “My response is, we’ve had the status quo, and the status quo doesn’t work. It’s time we send a strong message that we are willing to invest in our downtown landowners and merchants. With that, I will break the tie and vote yes.”

Nachtigal said he was living in Hillsboro when the city decided to change to one-way streets back in the 1960s, and doesn’t understand why the city wants to go back to that configuration. He pointed out that the city originally converted to a system of one-way streets because the business district was too congested and delivery trucks couldn’t deliver. He believes those factors have not changed and projected the move could actually backfire.

“People active in the downtown community have indicated to me they will be less active if it’s more difficult to get downtown,” he said.

Carleson said she supported the change.

“Merchants have invested tens of thousands of dollars in their shops and upgrades and this is a change they are ready to make. I look forward to the changes,” she said.

Callaway also backed the switch to two-way streets.

“I have heard from folks who say I’m crazy to approve this and those who tell me I’d be crazy not to, but I go back to what the downtown merchants want, and they have said they are in favor,” Callaway said.

In line to be changed from one-way to two-way are Main Street and Lincoln Street between First Avenue and Sixth Avenue, as well as Second, Third, Fourth and Fifth avenues between Lincoln and Walnut streets.

The process of realigning the street system is projected to cost the city $2.5 million. Once formally approved, design and permitting would take place in 2014-15, with reconstruction of the business district in 2015-16.

A final vote on the reconfiguration of the streets will take place during the council’s regular meeting Tuesday, May 20.

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