Back-seat Driver: 2 Sacramento streets to go on a diet

Published: Friday, Feb. 15, 2013 - 5:51 pm | Page 1B
Last Modified: Wednesday, Sep. 18, 2013 - 12:19 pm

Two major Sacramento streets are about to go on what city officials famously call road diets.

Sometime this summer, the city will change a chunk of J Street and part of Folsom Boulevard in east Sacramento from two lanes in each direction to one lane in each direction. Each will get a third, center-turn lane.

The changes do not affect J Street in midtown, which is still a scary-fast, one-way, three-lane conduit for commuters.

The lane reductions in east Sacramento may annoy some commuters who use those streets to get to and from jobs downtown, as well as some neighborhood residents who may find the drive to the local market a little slower.

But officials say the road diets should make those streets safer in general for drivers, pedestrians and bicyclists, and will help the city achieve its goal of reducing fast driving in residential areas.

On Folsom Boulevard, the changes will extend through the residential area from 34th Street to 47th Street, stopping just short of One Speed pizza restaurant, where the street is already on a diet.

By the way, that means the city can widen Folsom's notoriously thin lanes from 9 to a modern 11 feet, so wide trucks no longer take up part of the next lane.

The commercial part of Folsom Boulevard east of 59th Street will stay four lanes.

City Councilman Steve Cohn said the changes should stop cars from going 50 mph, allowing residents on foot or in cars to cross Folsom more safely.

Part of J Street in east Sacramento already is three lanes. The section from 42nd to 56th streets will now get the squeeze.

Road diets aren't new in Sacramento. City officials started experimenting 15 years ago with ways of slowing traffic in residential areas. Initially, they turned some one-way thoroughfares in midtown – like G and H streets – back into two-way streets.

Some traffic controls, such as the notorious half-street closures on some midtown streets, still cause ire. But the winnowing of 19th and 21st streets from three to two lanes has turned out well, officials say, even with some commute-hour slowing.

The city is not done with traffic calming. The city's general plan calls for more road diets, pedestrian improvements and bike lanes, as money allows.

It's not just in residential areas either. Freeport Boulevard in Land Park – a bizarre combo of local street, commute route and train corridor – is headed for a diet, either next year or in 2015, when funding arrives.

And just this week, planners with the Urban Land Institute told the Greater Broadway Partnership – a group of businesses and residents – they might want to consider a road diet for Broadway too, as a way to make the street more hospitable for businesses and local residents.

Editor's note: This column was changed Feb. 15 to correct the description of lane configurations on Folsom Boulevard.

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