Downtown 'road diet' nixed
Split council wont seek grant for reducing lanes from 4 to 2 on Petaluma Boulevard
Published: Thursday, October 8, 2009 at 3:00 a.m.
Last Modified: Wednesday, October 7, 2009 at 5:24 p.m.
Plans to continue a “road diet” of fewer lanes and wider on-street parking through the downtown core have been shelved after the City Council split on whether to seek funding for the work.
The council couldn’t muster the required four votes Mon-day night to apply for a federal road-safety grant that would have funded the bulk of the $867,000 project.
With Councilmember Tiffany Renée recusing herself because she lives within 500 feet of the potential project site, the council split 3-3 on the question of whether to pursue the grant.
Mayor Pamela Torliatt, Vice Mayor Teresa Barrett and Councilmember David Glass supported the application, but council members Mike Harris, Mike Healy and David Rabbitt did not.
Healy said he thought the road diet — two travel lanes with a center left-turn lane — between Washington and D streets would drive people away from the downtown area.
Rabbitt said the project would require a “pretty significant match” of $105,000 in city funds and added that downtown business and property owners hadn’t been consulted.
“I think a lot of people feel out of the loop on this,” he said.
A representative of the Petaluma Downtown Association said the group’s board had voted to oppose the road-diet plan.
“We really hope this doesn’t happen,” gallery owner Linda Postenrieder told the council.
The city’s capital improvements manager, Larry Zimmer, acknowledged that notification of nearby merchants and property owners had been “inadequate” but said it would be presumptuous of the city to begin planning the project before receiving the grant.
If the grant were secured, it would take at least a year to plan and build the new roadway, he said.
The city sought the grant due to the number of accidents on that stretch of the Boulevard, Zimmer told the council. In the past three-and-a-half years, there have been 90 accidents, eight of which resulted in injuries, he said.
Most of the accidents are sideswipes of parked cars due to the narrow travel and parking lanes, the city said.
Further north on the Boulevard, a lane reduction between Washington and Lakeville streets appears to be successful, and the city sought to continue the traffic-calming measure down to D Street, Zimmer said.
“We think this is a great project, and it comes in under the $900,000 threshold” of the grant offered through the Federal Highway Safety Improvement Program, he said.
As part of the project, the city would improve signage and striping on Petaluma Boulevard South between D and F streets in an effort to accommodate on-street parking, but would not reduce the number of lanes through that stretch, Zimmer said.
The city has received few negative comments about the existing Petaluma Boulevard North road diet, he added. Ongoing construction along Washington Street nearby has delayed a new round of “traffic counts” through the area to determine if traffic is flowing better, he told the council.
The three council members who supported the grant application said the current road diet has improved conditions there.
“I find it to be more user-friendly,” Glass said, noting that he was involved in a “near-miss” as a pedestrian while trying to cross four lanes of Petaluma Boulevard South traffic near C Street several years ago.
“Ninety accidents is quite a lot in three-and-a-half years, and eight bodily injuries is too many,” he said.
Barrett said she supported the application but stressed that the downtown business community should be involved in planning the project.
“It has to be worked out in a way where the timing is right and the businesses downtown are on board,” she said.
With only six council members voting on the issue, a motion to submit the application failed due to the 3-3 split.
(Contact Corey Young at email@example.com)
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