City, merchants discuss 'road diet' concerns

Members of the downtown business community have been meeting with city staff in recent months to express concerns and share information about a "road-diet" plan that will be implemented on a four-block stretch of Petaluma Boulevard South next year.

A meeting at Graziano's restaurant in September was followed up by a meeting Nov. 9 at City Hall with PDA representatives and city engineering staff.

"We're doing our best to get as many people involved as we can," said Larry Zimmer, the city's capital improvements manager.

"We want to make sure people are informed," said Marie McCusker, executive director of the Petaluma Downtown Association.

A survey that the PDA conducted of its members about the "road diet" this fall showed that adequate street parking is the biggest concern.

The survey also polled merchants on loading zones, pedestrian and vehicle safety and congestion and traffic delays (see sidebar on page A6).

The "road diet," approved by the City Council in June, is designed to improve bicycle and pedestrian safety by narrowing Petaluma Boulevard South from four lanes to three on the stretch between Washington and D streets.

Instead of two lanes in each direction, the plan calls for one lane each way and a continuous center-turn lane, allowing more room for bike lanes and parking.

Another concern among merchants is that the construction would have a negative impact on downtown businesses. McCusker said it would be important that there be minimal disruption while the work is being done."

Zimmer said, "We will be doing what we can to minimize impacts on downtown businesses. Obviously, any impact is of concern." He said the goal is to divert traffic as little as necessary and save as much parking as possible during construction.

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