*Updated– I’ve added some corrections and updates after talking with ODOT and the City of Eugene more.
As we reported back in March (twice), April, May and August the City has some great plans for completing one of the ‘missing links’ in the Eugene bicycle transportation system, the connection of the Alder St. ‘bikeway’ to the river path system. The city received official word on November 16th that they were awarded a $707,000 grant from the ODOT Bicycle and Pedestrian Grant Program and can now move forward with those plans. The City decided to piggyback the grant application with their Pavement Preservation Program which is slated to repave Alder from 19th 18th to Franklin in the summer of 2011. At the end of October the Oregon Bicycle and Pedestrian Advisory Committee (OBPAC) met in Seaside Astoria to decide which of the 90 communities that applied for over $37 million in projects would receive the $5 million that was available. Five Eleven communities were awarded funds including Eugene plus two alternates if extra funding comes available.
Key components of the project include the construction of a new south AND northbound bicycle facility on Alder Street, a new signalized crossing at Franklin and Alder, on-street parking reconfiguration on 13th Avenue, increased bicycle parking capacity, and significant pedestrian enhancements in the small business district. Final designs are still being worked out and initial scoping with city departments, utilities, and others will happen in the coming weeks. The city is still working with ODOT to make sure the grant funding is able to be used at the same time as the Alder and University repaving project. If the City and ODOT intergovernmental agreement (IGA) takes too long to put together the whole project may have to be shelved until summer of 2012 but the city staff is working with ODOT to move the process along and hopefully we’ll see some action this summer. Sheila Lyons, the ODOT Bicycle and Pedestrian Program Manager, says the IGA is on track and they have worked with a similar timeline with other Eugene projects, including the bike lanes on East 18th Ave. near University.
David Roth, Associate Transportation Planner with the City of Eugene says that some of the design elements are still being worked out including what the “Cycletrack” that is in the application will look like.
From the grant application:
“The new 2-Way Cycletrack will consolidate bicyclists on the east side of Alder in a highly visible designated space the entire length of the corridor.”
The city is considering a true cycle track that would be a slightly raised and separated facility made out of concrete to distinguish it from the roadway and the sidewalk and buffered by car parking where it exists. They are also looking at other physical separations and special markings at intersections. As stated in Alta Planning’s “Lessons Learned: Cycle Tracks” a true cycle track needs this kind of separation and distinction:
By definition, cycle tracks are separated from travel lanes and pedestrians by a physical barrier, such as on-street parking or a curb, or are grade-separated.
To make a truly comfortable bicycle facility that road users from 8 years old to 80 feel good about riding the City will need to use many new and interesting tools that have the potential to make this a showcase facility and could put Eugene back on the map as a forward thinking bike-friendly community. As the City moves ahead with the Bicycle and Pedestrian Master Plan and creates a design toolkit for that plan, this project could be one of the first in the new age of Eugene’s bike/ped infrastructure, one that isn’t just about the “confident and enthusiastic” cyclists (most likely you if you’re reading this blog) but is also aimed at getting the 60% of people who are “interested but concerned” out onto bikes more often.
Beyond the improvements to Alder St. there are some major improvements coming to 13th Ave between Alder and Kincaid as well. As laid out in the grant application:
The sidewalk on the north side of 13th Ave will be widened by 5 feet to accommodate pedestrian travel, sidewalk seating areas for adjacent cafes and businesses and landscape improvements. To facilitate the wider sidewalk, on-street auto parking will be consolidated on the south side of 13th in a back-in angled parking configuration to maintain existing supply and to provide for a safer interaction with bicyclists and pedestrians on the street. Eastbound cyclists will be accommodated with shared lane markings, whereas westbound cyclists will travel in a wide, well-marked concrete contraflow bike lane.
Roth says that one of the design elements still being worked out is the width of the sidewalk on 13th and that they may have to decrease their optimistic 5 feet of additional sidewalk to something more like 3 feet to make room for the parking configuration and to allow room for motorists and cyclists on 13th. Some community members have called for a car free zone or no parking zone in this section while most businesses supported this project because it didn’t remove any on-street parking. An active street life already exists here and with the most cyclists and pedestrians in any part of the city there is great potential for this area. Allen Hancock, a local advocate, has encouraged the City to create a “lively gathering place with food carts on the sidewalks, space for vendors in booths (think of the UO street fair), trees, tables for sidewalk cafes, occasional concerts” and more. He admits that this would require much wider sidewalks, removal of parking, and maybe even some people who would take their business elsewhere. However, he says “no one has approached business owners with a vision for creating this kind of vibrant business climate–they were asked what kinds of changes they would like to see to the roadway. It’s no surprise that they said “Keep the parking!”
Lyons, from ODOT, says that one of the strongest aspects of the Eugene application was how it addressed the pedestrian environment in this area and how the improvements of the wider sidewalk would effect one of the biggest users in the area. As the City moves ahead with the design it will be interesting to see what they do with this important gateway to the University.
Other features on Alder and 13th of note include on-street bicycle parking corrals, wayfinding signs, paystation parking meters, lighting, landscaping, and the integration of public art into the project.
Here are some photos of current conditions with notes on improvements needed:
What are your thoughts on this area? Do you ride through here now? What do you think of the plans so far?