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Sonoma plans new traffic, bike lanes on Broadway

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If Sonoma Public Works Director Colleen Ferguson has her way, the route of Broadway from MacArthur to the Plaza will have room for more parking, bike paths in each direction, and encourage foot traffic to support local businesses – without costing the city an extra dime.

“The city’s planning documents definitely show bike lanes on both sides of Broadway,” said Ferguson. “And it’s clear that the volumes of traffic on Broadway now can be accommodated by one travel lane until you get to the Plaza – you don’t need two lanes like we have now.”

What would it take to bring Ferguson’s vision to fruition? Apparently just some paint, thanks to the planned repaving of Broadway – aka Highway 12 – by Caltrans slated to begin next summer.

The majestic street, the so-called “gateway” to historic Sonoma, is far wider than it needs to be (and without the military rationale Napoleon needed to build the Champs de l’Elysee, a similarly over-wide boulevard in Paris).

That’s one reason there’s almost never a traffic jam on Broadway – though the T intersection at the Plaza where it runs into Napa Street can be congested.

“It’s 70 feet from curb to curb,” said Frank Penry of GHD, the city’s consultant for the Broadway Streetscape Enhancements & Traffic Circulation Project, part of the city’s annual budget currently under review.

Caltrans recommends 12 feet per lane of traffic, give or take, which means there’s room for at least five lanes on Broadway for most of its length inside city limits. Most of Broadway has four, plus a center turning lane.

That’s far roomier than the traffic calls for, says Penry. “There’s about 13,000 vehicles per day using this road, too little for four lanes,” he said. “That’s more appropriate for 25,000 to 30,000 cars.”

Given the need for bike lanes and parking in the downtown area, Broadway can offer a solution: reduce the number of lanes to one in each direction and there’ll be room not only for parking on both sides of the street, but bike lanes as well.

Closer to Napa Street, from McDonnell or Patten, the northbound traffic can be opened to two lanes, as it is now, to allow for left and right turns onto Napa, say traffic planners. But there’s no reason for two southbound lanes – and the extra space gained can not only create bike lanes, but a pedestrian “island” in the middle of the street to minimize the dangers of crossing Broadway on foot.

Often it’s foot traffic that creates vehicle-traffic slowdowns at the three-way intersection – it’s a long and harrowing walk across either Broadway or Napa Street, and vehicles have no choice but to wait their turn. “Every pedestrian has an impact,” said Penry succinctly.

Penry, along with Ferguson and Sonoma City Councilmember Logan Harvey, guided a handful of curious Sonomans on walking tours of upper Broadway last Tuesday, June 11. Outside Peet’s Coffee, a set of orange traffic cones were set up on Broadway to show how much room the parking, traffic lanes and other features would take, still allowing plenty of space for traffic.

The pavement on this section of Broadway is in disrepair, hence Caltrans’ scheduled repaving. The state transportation agency’s role is also to paint traffic stripes on the new surface – so all the city has to do is give them a new set of striping plans, and voila – as Napoleon would say – problem solved.

“It will be a very positive change,” said Harvey.

Of course nothing is final until the paint dries; the public tours and information handed out at the Tuesday farmers market this week were designed to get public input on the proposal. Ferguson thought it served its purpose.

“Based on the community input received (at the farmers market), the consultant team will be developing a sketch of potential re-striping of Broadway between Napa Street and MacArthur Street,” she said, adding that there will be at least one other opportunity for public input, at a date yet to be determined.

The Broadway Streetscape Enhancements & Traffic Circulation Project is one item in the City of Sonoma budget being proposed at the June 17 council meeting. Other transportation-related projects include city-wide bicycle and pedestrian improvement, and downtown Sonoma parking strategy – both of which are at least partially solved by a Broadway restriping.

The complete proposed budget can be found on sonomacity.org, under the information about the special meeting of the city council, on June 5 at tinyurl.com/y5xbf8r7.

The City Council will consider the annual budget on June 17, at 6 p.m., at the City Council Chambers, 177 First St. W.

Contact Christian at christian.kallen@sonomanews.com.

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