City planning big changes in Broadway traffic

The city is planning to make major changes to the traffic flow on Broadway between Third Street and Franklin Boulevard.

The Broadway Complete Streets Plan is intended to calm traffic, improve safety and make Broadway more inviting for travel on foot and by bicycle.

The four traffic lanes will be reduced to two–one in each direction–with a center turn lane, bicycle lanes on either side of the roadway, and new marked pedestrian crossings and refuge islands. A new southbound 29th Street lane will connect X Street to Broadway at the Highway 99 southbound on-ramp. Between Broadway and X Street, 16th Street will be two-way, with one southbound lane and two northbound lanes.

Megan Johnson, an associate civil planner for the city, summarized the highlights of the project and solicited comments at a public meeting attended by more than 110 people on July 18 at Uptown Studios (2415 23rd St.).

The proposal is to put Broadway on what planners call a “road diet.”

The first phase of the project will cover Broadway between Third and 16th streets plus the 29th Street extension. Design and environmental clearance are anticipated to be completed by fall 2020 with construction in 2021. The timing of the second phase depends on future funding.

The city estimates the total cost of the project at $10 million with funding from a variety of federal, state and city sources.

“Complete Street projects, often including lane reductions, bike lane additions and pedestrian improvements, are techniques used nationwide to improve safety and increase mobility options for streets with high speeds and high numbers of collisions, such as Freeport Boulevard and Broadway,” Johnson told Viewpoint.

In 2016, the city commissioned a study that predicted that reducing traffic on Broadway would increase traffic on other streets, particularly W and X streets to the north and Second Avenue to the south. The study estimated that delay times would triple within 20 years during morning rush hour at 21st Street and Second Avenue, and during evening rush hour at Freeport Boulevard and Second Avenue.

In 2015 the city measured average daily traffic at 21,980 vehicles at Broadway’s busiest intersection, at 16th Street/Land Park Drive, well short of the 25,000 vehicles a day that two-lane roads can accommodate.

The city estimated in 2016 that about one-quarter of Broadway Corridor residents commuted by walking, biking or transit, more than double the citywide average. Bus Route 51, which travels along Broadway, was one of Regional Transit’s busiest lines with 6,500 passengers per day. About 1,500 passengers a day boarded light rail at the Broadway station.

While the Broadway Complete Streets Plan is  considered a great leap forward in encouraging bicyclists and pedestrians, the need for an expanded tree canopy has not been addressed. During the summer months, the lack of shade means street and sidewalk surfaces can reach 140 degrees, making it unbearable for pedestrians and bicyclists.

Why the lack of shade on Broadway? There is limited space to grow trees. The section of Broadway in the Curtis Park neighborhood, for example, has only 7½ feet of space from the back of the curb to the back of the sidewalk. This allows for a planter no wider than 4 feet.

Providing additional space requires the adjacent property owner’s permission to encroach onto their property with the public sidewalk. However, this may not be possible due to site improvements along the back of sidewalk.

By Dan Pskowski and Dennis Cusick

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