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Broadway ‘bulbouts’ raise questions on restriping

For at least the third time, the Sonoma City Council may revisit plans to reconfigure the striping of Broadway, after concerns over “bulbouts” were raised last week by some city officials.

Bulbouts are the rounded extensions of curbs near intersections, which reduce the width of the roadway, resulting in a shorter crossing for pedestrians and often slower turn speeds for vehicles.

But as the City of Sonoma readies for its planned restriping of the northern end of the Broadway thoroughfare, the affect bulbouts play in the new design for parking and bike lanes sparked questions.

Council members were not aware the new design would lead to a reduction of parking spaces on Broadway. It is unclear how many spots total could be eliminated.

“I don’t know the exact number, I hope this will be detailed in the staff report,” said Vice Mayor Kelso Barnett, the lone vote against the new configuration.

Last year, the Sonoma City Council made plans to reduce the lanes of traffic, a decision that was at first supported, but quickly overturned by then-Mayor Logan Harvey following sharp public rebuke. But the idea was revisited by city staff last summer as Caltrans finalized its schedule for the last section of its $7 million repaving project on Highway 12, from Vallejo Avenue in the Springs to Napa Road in Sonoma.

In August, the council approved a plan they say will address pedestrian and cyclist safety by restriping portions of Broadway, narrowing the distance of crosswalks and adding buffered bike lanes between the sidewalk and a parallel parking lane that would be adjacent to moving traffic.

The new design will also reduce the southbound direction of Broadway between Napa and MacArthur streets from two lanes to one – a loss of moving-vehicle space that opponents of the redesign said would cause traffic jams on the approach to the Plaza.

The lane reduction was among the reasons cited by Barnett as he voted against the redesign last August.

“I just want to make sure we’re making the right decision,” he said at the time.

Reducing the width of Broadway crosswalks has been a primary goal of the reconfiguration since a series of pedestrian-vehicle collisions last year at various points along Highway 12 put pedestrian safety in the spotlight.

While bulbouts will reduce the width of crosswalks, they also force the elimination of the parking space adjacent to the bulbout, as well as bring a small curvature of the bike lane for cyclists to navigate.

Larry Barnett, a member of the Sonoma Planning Commission, is cautious about both situations.

“If a bike lane is added to Broadway it needs to be safe — the straighter the better,” Larry Barnett told the Index-Tribune this week. “It makes no sense to create a less safe, periodically curvilinear bike lane to accommodate curb bulbouts that also reduce parking spaces.”

Larry Barnett is hoping the council reconsiders the restriping design rather than “hurry and discover a bike lane at the curb is unsafe or awkward after it’s completed.”

Councilmember Madolyn Agrimonti confirmed that the bulbout issue is something the council hopes to find a solution to. “I actually drove down Broadway to count bulbouts,” she wrote in an email to the Index-Tribune.

For the City Council to reconsider an issue it has already voted upon, the members of the voting majority of that prior decision have to agree to revisit the matter. The Aug. 2 vote to restripe Broadway in the new configuration was 3-1, with members Madolyn Agrimonti, Jack Ding and Bob Felder in favor, and Kelso Barnett opposed. The fifth seat on the council, currently held by Sandra Lowe, was empty at the time of the vote, following Amy Harrington’s resignation.

If the council wants to reconsider the redesign plans, it will have to make haste. The restriping was initially scheduled for completion in early January, but cold temperatures and rainy weather forced crews to delay the work. Prior to her retirement at the end of December, former city Public Works Director Colleen Ferguson predicted the restriping would take place “when weather allows” – and there’s no rain forecasted for the week ahead in Sonoma.

The City Council will hold a special virtual meeting on Wednesday, Jan. 12, at 4:30 p.m. to reconsider the restriping options for Broadway between MacArthur Street and Napa Street. A staff report and agenda will be available Jan. 11 at sonomacity.org.

Email Jason Walsh at Jason.walsh@sonomanews.com.

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