This morning, the Transportation and Public Works (TPW) committee approved a layout for the Riverside Avenue reconstruction project. This layout has changed significantly for the better in the month or so since it last came before the committee (compare the old version to the new version). Among the positive changes:
- The bicycle lane going towards downtown now extends all the way to Cedar Avenue, rather than dropping a half-block early. This is possible because the through lane (which goes onto 4th St and has very low volumes) has been combined with the left turn lane onto southbound Cedar. I am confident that this change will work fine for automobiles, as the layout keeps a dedicated right-turn lane onto Cedar northbound - the heaviest movement in this intersection. It will work much better for bicyclists, giving them a safe, dedicated lane all the way through Cedar, connecting to 4th St (and, from there, to the Hiawatha LRT trail). And, as a side benefit, it will work better for pedestrians. The old through lane was eleven feet wide. The bike lane is only 5 feet wide. The remaining space has been dedicated to the sidewalk on the north side (near the Acadia cafe), which has grown from a proposed 13 feet to 20 feet. As this is one of the highest pedestrian traffic intersections in town, I think that this is a great side effect.
- The section of the road between 22nd and 25th Avenues has been improved. There will be parking on the south side of the street, with green boulevards and wider sidewalks possible on both sides. Fairview Hospital and Augsburg College pushed hard for this, and I'm glad they did.
In addition to these improvements, I worked with members of TPW to get two staff directions passed. The first makes clear that the bike lane going towards Seward will not simply end in the block between South 9th Street and Franklin Avenue. Instead, bicyclists and drivers will both be informed that the right lane is to be shared by both users, with appropriate striping and signage. This is necessary due to the complexity of the Riverside/Franklin/29th intersection. A bike lane to the right of travel lanes, where most people would expect it, could easily lead to conflicts between bicyclists taking a left from Riverside onto Franklin and cars going "straight" (actually an obtuse right) onto 29th.
The second staff direction is for staff to work with community stakeholders - most likely Fairview, Augsburg, and the Cedar Riverside Partnership - to identify appropriate locations for planted medians. It also makes absolutely clear that the City will not maintain planted medians; if the institutions and others want these, they have to find a way to take care of them. Still, I'm optimistic that we'll find three or four good locations along Riverside to get some greenery in the middle of the road, as a gateway onto the West Bank.
I will be hosting a meeting with the residents of 5th Street to discuss the corner of 5th, 20th Avenue, and Riverside. Staff moved away from their preferred alternative for that intersection - a cul-de-sac - based on the negative reaction from residents. Instead, they are proposing an out-only lane that would allow cars to exit 5th onto Riverside, but not allow cars to turn onto 5th at that location. Unfortunately, the meeting that staff hosted to discuss this proposal was held at a time and location that made it impossible for residents to attend, so I will be presenting the proposal to residents sometime later this month.
All in all, this is a great project. It's a once in a generation opportunity to improve one of the two main streets on the West Bank, and from the beginning it was clear that it will dramatically improve the pedestrian experience through curb extensions and more. The improvements we've been able to make in response to the engagement of the community over the last month have made it even better, and I'm excited to see the project get underway.