Concepts emerge to remake Higgins Avenue with bikes, buses and pedestrians in mind
On Tuesday, city transportation planners presented several proposals for Higgins Avenue to members of the Transportation Policy Coordinating Committee, beginning a process to make the dense downtown corridor safer for all modes of travel. shift.
Unless the ‘do nothing’ option prevails, the series of recommendations will result in pavement changes, each with different advantages and disadvantages.
“Every conversation, comment and survey response provided the team with valuable insights that allowed us to develop several design alternatives for the corridor,” said Aaron Wilson, city transportation manager. “We will consider all the feedback and analysis we receive and go to our steering committee to find a preferred concept.”
The proposals include changes north and south of the new Beartracks Bridge, extending from Broadway south to the Brooks Street intersection.
The three proposals for the northern end of the project include maintaining the status quo while another would maintain four lanes of traffic and add elevated bike lanes. This would sacrifice about 21 parking spaces but have minimal impacts on motor vehicles, Wilson said.
The third option for the north end of the project includes reducing four lanes of traffic to three and adding elevated bike lanes. It would only cost one parking space, but would have a greater impact on motor vehicles. However, that would leave Higgins with a uniform design throughout the Downtown hallway.
The proposed changes south of the river to Brooks Street would all result in reduced traffic lanes. Two concepts include one lane in each direction with a center turn lane.
But Concept A would have a painted bike lane and retain most of the parking while Concept B would have a raised bike lane and eliminate some of the parking. The elevated bike path is deemed safer than the painted bike path and would reflect the design north of the river, Wilson said.
“Part of the benefit of doing this is you have a consistent street,” Wilson said. “When we see challenges, it’s when we have these sudden changes. There are benefits to continuing to the end.
Concept C would create a central bus lane or a dedicated cart. This would eliminate the center turn lane but provide both raised and painted bike lanes, depending on where the crossing point is for buses traveling in the opposite direction.
A similar plan is under consideration for the length of the Brooks Street Corridor to improve bus rapid transit with minimal impacts on existing traffic. It’s something that Midtown defenders supported.
“It’s a transit-centric concept that includes a dedicated bus lane with boarding stations on the central island,” Wilson said. “This is a concept we are looking at in the Brooks Corridor and it would continue this design to provide more efficient and dedicated transit service.
Wilson said the project is coming to an end, and awareness and analysis have led to the current concepts. After the final round of public comment is collected this spring and the steering committee weighs in, the final proposal will be presented for adoption this fall, followed by efforts to get it built.
Bicycle safety advocates favor most concepts, saying public roads should serve all members of the public, not just those in motor vehicles.
“Most of the examples I’ve seen across the country where a city has chosen to improve bicycle and pedestrian access to retail areas, businesses have actually benefited,” said John Wolvertong . “I think we shouldn’t all be afraid to use the word road diet. I always say road diet is not a dirty word.