City will test fewer lanes on NW Eighth Avenue
Published: Thursday, May 2, 2013 at 6:01 a.m.
Last Modified: Friday, May 3, 2013 at 12:12 a.m.
The City Commission's proposed lane reduction along a stretch of Northwest Eighth Avenue will begin as a temporary test.
After nearly four hours of public input and debate among commissioners Thursday night, the City Commission voted 6-1 to experiment with a plan that stripes the roadway as one lane in each direction, with bicycle lanes, on a stretch of Eighth Avenue spanning from just east of Northwest 34th Street to just west of Northwest 23rd Street.
Commissioner Todd Chase cast the dissenting vote, citing his opposition to taking a lane off a well-traveled east-west corridor that sees more than 15,000 vehicle trips a day.
Commissioners Randy Wells and Lauren Poe, on the other hand, said the reconfigured roadway would address a problem with speeding along that stretch of road and put in place better, safer facilities for cyclists.
The “test” design is expected to start in July or August and stretch on for some four months.
Details of what the test will seek to measure in terms of vehicle and bicycle traffic are expected to come back before the commission before the test begins. The plan is to paint the roadway as one lane in each direction with a striped median area. While deciding to go with a test, six of the seven commissioners indicated support for a permanent lane reduction along that stretch of roadway, which runs past Loblolly Woods Nature Park, residential roadways, Westside Park and ends just east of Littlewood Elementary School.
Their motion to proceed with a test included details that would be part of a future permanent design — the addition of wider sidewalks, a landscaped median and an electric conduit for the future installation of LED street lighting. Those additions would add some $434,000 to a project that had prior projected costs of some $2.8 million.
The test of the design on the stretch of road east of Northwest 34th Street is projected to cost $25,000.
Most of the debate among commissioners and the public focused on the roughly 7/10-mile stretch of the 3.3-mile project where a lane reduction was under consideration. Proponents cited issues with speeding vehicles, improving bicycle and pedestrian facilities, and a consultant's study that a lane reduction would increase travel time by 18 seconds.
Opponents said the plan would increase congestion and push traffic onto adjacent neighborhood roads.
Commissioners unanimously approved design elements for other stretches of the roadway. Those included resurfacing the stretch from Northwest 34th Street to Northwest 40th Drive with its current design of two lanes in each direction. The stretch from Northwest 23rd Street to Northwest Sixth Street would remain one lane in each direction, with the addition of bike lanes, reduced on-street parking and wider sidewalks where possible. The wider sidewalks on that stretch would add $175,000 to the costs.
The project still has to come back for further consideration during the design process, and construction is not expected to start until late 2014 or early 2015 so it does not overlap with the county's project on Northwest 16th Avenue, the other east-west corridor in the area.