Give SDOT credit for proactivity: After our report yesterday that the city’s proposing cutting down travel lanes on Fauntleroy Way between Alaska and California – from two each way to one each way plus a center turn lane, in conjunction with anticipated repaving – SDOT offered up a key interview before we could even ask: Eric Widstrand, the man who will recommend to SDOT leadership whether this should go forward. We talked this morning, and here’s what we found out:
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That’s the Google Street View from Fauntleroy/Raymond, along one stretch of the potentially narrowing zone, just in case you need a refresher. Now, our Q/A:
WSB (editor Tracy Record): What’s your role in this?
EW (SDOT’s Eric Widstrand): As manager of traffic operations and acting city traffic engineer, I would be in position to approve the change in lane configuration. (He later clarified that he would actually make the recommendation to SDOT director Grace Crunican.)
WSB: Has this been proposed before?
EW: It came up in the Bicycle Master Plan – where it’s called a “segment that needs further study.”
WSB: What sort of traffic-volume research have you done leading up to this?
EW: We have had some information collected for the past month or so. We have learned that, volume-wise, a three-lane section can accommodate the traffic.
WSB: And how much traffic IS that, on this stretch?
EW: We haven’t published the annual traffic flow map for 2007 yet, but going back through 2004, 2005, 2006 — 19,100 vehicles a day in 2004, 18,600 in 2005, 18,700 in 2006 …
WSB: What about the current and future growth along Fauntleroy — with more townhouses along the middle of that stretch, and the big projects coming in closer to the Alaska end?
EW: We will be looking out five to 10 years to make sure it will work in the long term, knowing that development is coming in, even some that might currently not be planned … we do want to take that into account. We are still evaluating, but we are not seeing longterm growth that would cause this to not work.
WSB: What problems, specifically, is this proposal supposed to solve?
EW: It’s trying to make the roadway work better for all users. A 4-lane segment works very well for auto traffic, but it’s not a great facility for cyclists. And we have had a problem with speeding. We’ve installed the radar signs to help with that … Also, a 4-lane (road) is not as easy for pedestrians to use; we have the (Fairmount) park and playground — trying to get across four lanes can be problematic.
WSB: So this is making accommodations for pedestrians and bicyclists, at the expense of cars?
EW: The city passed a “Complete Streets Initiative” in the past year or so [ed. note: April 2007; read this], and we need to look at all modes of travel. Since the Bicycle Master Plan recognized this segment for further study — if it is repaved, we want to take a look at it. If the paving program does not come through (this will likely not be done).
WSB: Are there any comparable roads elsewhere in the city where this kind of change was made?
EW: Stone Way has been rechannelized in the past year. The volumes are holding; we’re not seeing drivers diverting onto other roads. One other that’s currently being evaluated, Nickerson between the Ballard Bridge and just west of the Fremont Bridge.
WSB: Why don’t you envision traffic jams (if this is done)?
EW: I think we understand that with Fauntleroy, you have to be concerned with ferry-traffic surges – but also, it’s currently traveling on Fauntleroy in a two-lane stretch west of California, so I don’t think traffic jams are going to occur. We will have a two-way left-turn lane, which also could allow for potential medians for pedestrian crossings. We understand that at the intersections with California and Alaska we still need to maintain a certain amount of capacity to get through … so at Alaska we’d plan to transition to the existing cross-section – we still have to figure out how to handle Edmunds. And at California, we might take the outside through lanes, and make them transit lanes or right-turn-only lanes.
WSB: What about the proposal to turn Fauntleroy through the Triangle into a tree-lined boulevard with a median [WSB Sept. coverage] — is this meant to coordinate with that?
EW: I understand the boulevard proposal might extend to Edmunds – we do want to coordinate with that study, but this isn’t looking further (north/east) than Alaska.
WSB: From the open house (December 1st), what’s the chain of approval for this?
EW: We need to get community feedback, and we want to make sure our concept addresses those concerns — we will bring the concept we’re thinking about, but it’s not the final design. We want to get feedback. The driver here will be whether the paving project moves forward or not (in the budget process) – if it does, and we feel the three-lane configuration will work, we want to make sure we have community support, we don’t want to force a change.
WSB: When would it happen?
EW: If the paving goes forward, it would be done the first half of the year. After the meeting, we will go back and take a look at what we hear, we’ll talk internally, then ..it would be raised to the director of traffic management and the director of transportation. I’d make a recommendation on what direction we should do. We definitely want to get feedback from the community as a whole – we look at this as an opportunity to have a say on how Fauntleroy can work best for them. (later) If we can get a consensus at where marked crosswalks would help, that might be part of it.
WSB: If someone can’t make it to the December 1st open house (5:30-8:30 pm at High Point Community Center), how do they have a say in this?
EW: Write to firstname.lastname@example.org.