The nation’s tenth largest city, San Jose, is putting more consideration into traffic calming and “sharable streets,” whereby safe and green spaces will be created for multiple modes of travel. It’s a trend that has already caught on in many cities across the United States. San Francisco and New York have already forged ahead as leaders in this kind of urban planning and street design; whereas, it’s been a slow introduction in San Jose. But, the self-proclaimed capital of Silicon Valley — also the third largest city in the state — will trial a lane reduction, or “road diet,” at another one of its more popular thoroughfares. This time it’s in the popular Willow Glen neighborhood. Lincoln Avenue is next in line to pilot a lane reduction project, along with just a handful of other streets in this city that have already gone through permanent redesign.
A public meeting that occurred at Willow Glen Elementary School as of Thursday 12 February 2015 announced that Lincoln Avenue’s experimental road diet will be installed as of Saturday 21st to 28th February of year 2015, with plans to trial run it from about March 1st into May.
The road diet trial will be implemented at Lincoln Avenue, running its course from the intersections of Minnesota Avenue to Willow Street. Temporary water-based stripes will paint the road diet’s design across the avenue. Lincoln Avenue currently includes four lanes altogether, divided in half by a yellow line for opposing traffic.
As of the weekend of February 21st, it will be reduced to two lanes: one going north and the other south. At the center of the Avenue, there will also be a lane dedicated for turning. This center-turn lane can also be used for emergency vehicles. Additionally new to the design, there will be bicycle lanes added at each side of the avenue, north and south.
Bicyclist should now have a 5-foot wide lane on each side of the road; as well as that drivers will have that added space to maneuver into parallel parking spaces. Indeed, curbside parking will remain at the avenue and should not be hampered.
This road diet plan would support the city’s year 2040 transportation goals; i.e., as outlined in the Envision San José 2040 General Plan.
But, The road diet is also part of a greater initiative for safe, livable or “complete streets” in the neighborhood, an idea advocated by neighborhood residents and stakeholders for some time. Such ideas not only relate to traffic calming; but, sharable streets for people of all ages and abilities, modes of transportation and so on. Neighborhood advocates have been working for years to make Lincoln Avenue safe for travel by use of walking, bicycling, driving automobiles, riding public transportation, as well as delivering goods.
If all goes well, there will be a final implementation with a re-paving of the avenue as of October 2015.
According to Hans Larsen, Director of Department of Transportation (DOT), the avenue will be due for re-paving at that time, anyways. Plus, the city has recently increased its budget from $20 million to $55 million, in order to increase road conditions. That comes from a grant and development fees.
The first week of the road diet trial will include active monitoring, followed by a meeting with the Road Diet Working Group as of 6th March. That monitoring will continue through the month, including a study in early April, as well as hot-spot analysis further out along the timeline.
The department of transportation shall be doing data collection and monitoring, which will allow before and after comparisons at over forty neighborhood locations. Considerations will be made for traffic speed and volume; corridor travel time; congestion studies at signalized intersections; as well as active monitoring of operations at special places, like Willow Glen Elementary School (at the corner of Lincoln & Minnesota Avenues).
There are also miscellaneous concerns like signal timing adjustments, so as to give a 20% green time reduction for northbound morning commutes on Lincoln Avenue, such as from the Curtner to Pine Avenues stretch.
Since Lincoln Avenue’s trial area is from Minnesota Avenue to Willow Street, there will be what’s regarded as “transition areas” going north from Willow to Paula Streets, as well as south from Minnesota to Nevada Avenue. Signs are to be installed, in order to prepare for what’s coming ahead.
Between now and then, there will be a community meeting that’s expected as of June 11th, once again to get public feedback after the test run and review. If necessary, a city council action may occur in August.
Other road diets in the City of San Jose have been part of the “Envision 2040” urban plan. Over the last few years, the city’s Department of Transportation (DOT) has implemented other sharable streets and lane reduction projects. They include a grid of downtown San Jose streets like Almaden Boulevard, plus 3rd, 4th, 10th and 11th Streets running parallel; then intersecting with San Fernando, St. James and Julian Streets (perpendicularly). Others that have been completed are the Hedding Street/Ocala Street bike lane project, as well as the Technology Drive area. (The city’s more comprehensive Bike Plan 2020 Annual Report can be seen here).
The community meeting for this February was managed by Willow Glen Neighborhood Association (WGNA). Chris Roth, known as WGNA’s current President, introduced Tom Trudell of Willow Glen Business Association (WGBA). Trudell is also chairman of the recently formed Road Diet Working Group. Additionally appearing before the crowd were Willow Glen’s District 6 Councilmember, Pierluigi Oliverio; plus San Jose’s Director of Department of Transportation (DOT), Hans Larsen.
The Lincoln Avenue Road diet project actually began as early year 2009, under the direction of Stakeholders for a Safe Green Village, when Richard Zappelli was both chairman of that group, as well as President of WGNA and a liaison to WGBA.
Coming into Stakeholders SGV were two members from WGBA, two from WGNA and one from Silicon Valley Bicycle Coalition. Later on, additional members were added: San Jose’s Deputy Fire Chief; Deputy Police Chief; Willow Glen’s Community Center Manager and so on. Committee members made an initiative for Lincoln Avenue’s traffic calming.
Stakeholders for a Safe Green Village (SGV) is no longer part of the managing triumvirate of the Lincoln Avenue road diet project, as is Richard Zappelli is no longer President of WGNA (he termed-out in May 2014).
Stakeholders SGV had continued to work with WGBA on the Lincoln Avenue road diet up to October 14, 2014, when the Road Diet Work Group was formed. [CLARIFICATION, 25 February 2015, per Richard Zappelli]
However, position papers (or written statements/opinion papers), have been received by the Road Diet Work Group (RDWG) from Stakeholders SGV [those papers are dated: 20 November 2014; and 21 December 2014]. Richard Zappelli is not a member of the RDWG, but is a consultant thereof; that’s as he remains chairman of Stakeholders SGV.
The trial project is now scheduled to be carried out; but, the triumvirate that now controls the agenda received some criticism from the public at attendance.
Among many things, several persons said that the promotion and outreach for the February meeting was both inadequate and untimely. Complaints were made that this lack of outreach was not allowing for input from outer neighborhoods beyond the immediate area of concern.
Several persons were unnerved that none of the panelists would answer with appropriate information about traffic studies around Highway 87 and Interstate-280, such as with the well-known commuter back-up and congestion.
Moreover, there was no estimate for cars from the Lincoln and Curtner Avenues inflow.
Residents are largely referring to second phase development around the Communications Hill Project, as well as others in the Almaden neighborhoods, as traffic leads onto Lincoln Avenue from Almaden Expressway. These additional developments, and the environmental impact, are expected to make things worse for Willow Glen, which is a crossover to downtown San Jose and still further points beyond.
De Anza Post will follow with yet another story, reporting about the proceedings at the last February 12th town meeting, which was held at Willow Glen Elementary. Plus, there will be more details or related matters with regards to the road diet’s history, management and business affairs.
Previous coverage by de·Anza Post, of the Lincoln Avenue road diet and bicycle projects, can be found here.