By Jayson Jacoby
The consulting firm Baker City hired to update the city's transportation plan suggests the city build miles of sidewalks and bike paths to create easier, safer routes to a variety of destinations, including schools, parks and the hospital.
Kittelson and Associates Inc. of Boise also has studied a range of options for changing the traffic configuration on a couple of the city's most bustling thoroughfares to make room for bike lanes and, potentially, reduce the number of crashes.
Employees from the firm will present some of their proposals during a public open house March 6 at City Hall, 1655 First St.
The open house will run from 5 p.m. to 7 p.m.
The transportation plan is intended to help guide city officials as they make decisions over the next two decades, City Manager Mike Kee said.
"It's a planning tool - nothing in it is mandatory," he said.
Which projects listed in the plan actually come to fruition depends in large part on the city's budget.
Some of the items listed in the current transportation plan, approved in 1996, have not happened, although several - including the extension of D Street across the Powder River - have been built.
The city started the planning process last summer with a public meeting and a bike tour in July.
Kittelson and Associates studied potential changes to the traffic flow on several heavily traveled streets.
In some cases the consultant proposes what's known as a "road diet" - the basic idea being to change a four-lane street, such as 10th Street between Broadway and Pocahontas Road, to a three-lane configuration with one travel lane in each direction and a center lane for left turns at intersections.
The city made that change about a decade ago to Campbell Street between Main and Birch streets, the busiest route in town.
Switching from a four-lane to a three-lane street creates more space for such things bicycle lanes (which were added to Campbell Street), wider sidewalks, and landscape buffers between the street and sidewalk.
Traffic studies have shown that the three-lane configuration is more efficient and safer, according to Kittelson and Associates.
A common problem on four-lane streets is that drivers, with two lanes in each direction, shift lanes when, for instance, a car in the right lane slows to make a right turn onto a side street.
This can lead to collisions if a faster driver who's already in the left lane doesn't anticipate a car moving from the right lane to the left.
Another potential conflict on a four-lane street stems from the lack of a center turn lane, which means drivers turning left sometimes have to stop, in a travel lane, before they turn, which increases the risk for rear-end collisions.
Switching from a four-lane to a three-lane configuration also tends to slow traffic, according to the consultant's report.
Kittelson and Associates recommends city officials consider road diets on two major commercial routes: Broadway Street between Main and 10th streets; and 10th Street between Broadway and Pocahontas.
The firm suggests three possible options for reconfiguring those two sections of street:
andbull; OPTION 1: One 12-foot-wide travel lane in each direction, with a center turn lane, 14 feet wide, and a 6-foot-wide bike lane in each direction. This would also allow for a 5-foot-wide landscaping strip between the sidewalk and the street on both sides.
The report notes, however, that the landscaping strip might not be worth the expense of rebuilding the curbs and storm drainages.
andbull; OPTION 2: This option is similar to the first, except the travel lanes, one in each direction, would be 11 feet wide instead of 12, and the center turn lane would be 12 feet wide instead of 14.
There would be no landscaping strip. Instead, the bike lanes, one in each direction, would be 5 feet wide, and there would be an 8-foot-wide curbside parking strip on each side of the street.
andbull; OPTION 3: This is a hybrid of the two other options. It would include 12-foot-wide travel lanes and a 14-foot-wide center turn lane, and 6-foot-wide bike lanes with no landscaping strip.
The main difference is that this option would allow for an 8-foot-wide parking strip, but on only one side rather than both sides as in option 2.
Campbell Street changes
Kittelson and Associates suggests changes to the traffic striping on Campbell Street between Main and Birch streets.
The purpose of the restriping is to create a wider parking strip next to the curb. According to the report, local residents have complained that the current parking strip, which is 6? feet wide, is so narrow that when a driver opens his door, it crosses into the 5?-foot-wide bike lane.
The consultants propose to shrink the center turn lane from 16 feet to 14 feet, and the bike lane to 5 feet. This would make it possible to widen the parking lane to 8 feet.
The report acknowledges that the restriping project would also require changes to the raised concrete islands at the Leo Adler Memorial Parkway crossing, and near Cedar and Birch streets.
The basic idea here is to build sidewalks on sections of several streets to create a continuous network of sidewalks that links parks, schools, business districts and other popular destinations.
The network of sidewalks would be augmented by bike lanes on several streets, including, as mentioned earlier, 10th and Broadway streets.
A sampling of the consultant's proposals:
andbull; Midway connector: Fill in the many gaps in the sidewalk network on Midway Drive, 13th Street, H Street, and 11th Street (mainly north of D Street). Provide wayfinding to identify this as a walking/bicycling route.
andbull; Ninth Street: Fill in sidewalk gaps on 9th Street (95 percent of corridor), between E Street and Hughes Lane. Provide wayfinding to identify this as a walking/bicycling route.
andbull; E Street: Fill in sidewalk gaps between 11th Street and College Street. Provide wayfinding to identify this as a walking/bicycling route. Enhance the existing marked crossing at the intersection with 10th Street.
andbull; College/Fourth Street: Fill two blocks of sidewalk gap between H Street and Grandview Drive. Provide wayfinding to identify this as a walking/bicycling route between H Street and Grace Street.
andbull; Golf course connector: Build sidewalks on 11th Street and Hillcrest Drive from Auburn Avenue to Tracy Street. Provide wayfinding to identify this as a walking/bicycling route.
andbull; Bike lanes on D Street east of 10th Street to create a bike route to destinations including the Leo Adler Memorial Parkway, Leo Adler Field and the Fairgrounds. Adding bike lanes would require eliminating on-street parking on one side of the street.
READ THE REPORT
It's available online at http://sites.kittelson.com/Baker_City_TSP
Tech memo No. 3 covers the entire range of options and studies.
Wednesday, March 6
5 p.m. to 7 p.m.
City Hall, 1655 First St.