After years of planning, design, and debate, the City Council has given the go-ahead for a shared bike and bus lane on Broadway, at least temporarily.
Monday night, the Council voted 9-2 to approve a nine-month pilot program making Broadway one way from Fifth Street to Second Street, with the shared bike and bus lane. If deemed successful, the transportation realignment for one of the city’s main thoroughfares could become permanent.
“As you know, for many months we have been deliberating on the merits of the various designs for a new One-Way Broadway configuration from Fifth Street to Second Street,” stated City Manager Thomas Ambrosino.
Four options were presented to the Council, with the one recommended by Ambrosino favored by the Council, with a minor tweak.
“The preferred alternative of my Administration is Option 2 – the dedicated, shared bus/bike lane,” according to Ambrosino. “This Option 2 prioritizes public transit riders, a critical constituency in the Downtown, and at the same time provides significant benefits to pedestrians and bicyclists.”
The design of the reconstruction of the Broadway corridor could take as long as two years, according to the city manager.
“However, understanding that there remains some legitimate concern over the viability of any option that reduces vehicular traffic to one lane, I am prepared to move forward, as expeditiously as possible, with a pilot program to test the shared bike/bus lane concept before finalizing the design,” said Ambrosino.
District 5 Councillor Judith Garcia said of all the options city officials have been presented with over the past year, Option 2 makes the most sense.
“This accommodates all traffic flow, including residents who use the bus so much,” said Garcia. “It is a matter of access and accommodation for all our residents.”
Councillor At-Large Damali Vidot said she agreed that the shared bike/bus lane option was the option that had the most support from the Council, adding that the nine-month pilot program would give the City more time to assess the impact of the shared lane.
“This accommodates the most modes of traffic, including pedestrians,” she said.
While there was wide Council support for the pilot program, there was disagreement among members over an amendment proposed by At-Large Councillor Leo Robinson.
Robinson asked that the Option 2 plan move forward, but that there not be the widening of sidewalks as proposed in the plan, with the exception of sidewalks at bus stops and crosswalks.
The pilot program, with Robinson’s amendment, passed by a 7-4 vote, with Vidot, Garcia, and councillors Yamir Rodriguez and Enio Lopez voting against the plan, as amended.
“I am supporting the project as presented by the Planning Department,” said Vidot. She said it was unfair to change the plans on the fly after they have been brought forward by expert city officials and consultants.
Robinson countered that he believed keeping the sidewalks at the current width, and not bumping them out an additional two feet on either side of the street, would improve safety.
Garcia also stated that she wanted to vote on the plan as presented.
“We do not need to send this to another subcommittee, when we have had two to three years of meetings on this,” she said.
A vote earlier in the evening on a proposal by District 8 Councillor Calvin Brown to send the proposal back to subcommittee failed by a 9-2 vote. Brown said he was attempting to give the three newest members of the Council more time to examine the Broadway options.
Ambrosino said the City will work with downtown businesses and residents, and that he believes the pilot program will be successful.
“But, if that is not the case, and if the pilot truly results in substantial negative feedback, adverse impacts on downtown businesses, and intolerable inconvenience to vehicular traffic, then the City will abandon this Option 2 and redesign for a different alternative,” he stated.