July 13, 2018 – At the Ballpark Community Council meeting yesterday, Kevin Young of Salt Lake City Transportation presented a potential makover of 1700 S between 300 W and State Street. The reconfiguration of the restriping would remove a lane of traffic, and replace it with parking. This would be done in conjunction with a slurry seal of the roadway, probably in 2019. Currently, bike lanes exist between 300 W and Main Street. Following the restriping, lanes would be added between Main and State and existing bike lanes would be enhanced (buffers added). This section currently just has sharrow markings (edit: sharrow are eastbound currently, with a westbound bike lane, the restriping would add buffered lanes in both directions except in the turn zone).
The project is being recommended by Mayor Biskupski as part of the 2018 CIP (Capital Improvement Projects) list. The cost would be approximately $105,000 for the restriping. The project next goes to the council for a vote sometime later this summer, along with the rest of the CIP budget.
The idea for the street redesign came from the owners of Manny's Bar and Grill, and was generally well supported by the business community. Penny, one of the owners, was “excited for this” and was working to gather signatures in support of the project. She felt like her customers really needed the parking. Another business owner thought that the change would lead to a new neighborhood business hub at 1700 S and Main Street, akin to 9th and 9th. Sweet Lake, a restaurant, voiced there support as well.
Most residents who spoke were in favor of it as well, including Amy J. Hawkins, chair of the community council, who said that it would open up possibilities for wider sidewalks which would allow more residents to age in place.
Generally, the sentiment was that the change would result in a more walkable, bikeable neighborhood. However, there were concerns that traffic would use the sidestreets instead of 1700 S, and that the reconfiguration would cause bottlenecking on 1700 S.
Kevin Young presented other examples of ‘road diets' in Salt Lake City that have resulted in safer roads, including 300 S, 400 S between 900 W and Redwood, and 900 W. Bill Knowles, also from Salt Lake City administration, noted that he didn't like the term ‘road diet', but preferred to view this as a way to get more use out of the street.
Erin Mendenhall, the city councilperson for the area, said it was a big deal that the restriping was on the Mayor's short list, since few projects (relative to the length of the list) from the CIP list are funded. She noted that the funding was helped by the fact that it is closer to the new High Avenue Homeless Resource Center. The administration is analyzing an area in a 3 mile radius of the new shelter for sidewalks and Americans with Disabilities Act accomodations.
Another resident, Maxine Potter, noted that in 1978, 1700 S was widened from 2 lanes to 4, and many trees were removed. She thought the new project was a potential waste of money.
At the close of the meeting, Mr. Young also mentioned that Salt Lake City is applying for federal funds in the form of a BUILD grant (like a TIGER grant) to rework 300 W with better sidewalks and other accomodations.
Overall, the project looks pretty good for cyclists, with better lanes between State and Main. The reduction of traffic lanes will no doubt help make the street more inviting and safer for cyclists. The design that was presented was in no way a final design, and there will be many changes to before a final design is arrived at. While in general, more parking tends to encourage more driving, and hence make streets less bikeable and walkable, here, the tradeoff is a good one – a lane of traffic will be removed, and that is good for cyclists.
The bike lane configuration, especially in regards to the right turn lane from 1700 S to State St. needs to be rethought to give more priority to bikes.
We like that the street will have good biking for most of it's length from Sugarhouse to the west side. That said, speed limits are too high on the road. They are mostly 30 mph, but should have dropped to 25 following the reconstruction of the street east of State Street. This new project would be a great opportunity to redo the speed limits. Note that our position is that speed limits are generally way to high in Salt Lake City and Utah, and that the 85th percentile ‘rule' (that speeds should be set for 85% of the drivers) is junk engineering. Speeds should be set at the speed one wants drivers to go, and of course road design should be improved to slow traffic to that speed.
Lastly, but most importantly, we think that this is a great opportunity for a protected bike lane, but Salt Lake City didn't seem to want to go that route. Hopefully they will shift their thinking and use a more modern approach. They did say that because of the number of driveways, a protected bike lane would be difficult to implement and would result in less parking, which is one of the key drivers of the project.
What you can do in the next month or so: Contact your city councilperson with comments of support: [email protected]