Back-Seat Driver

City of Sacramento considering new set of ‘road diets’

A bicyclist with three dogs in tow cross J and 22nd Streets in Sacramento on Monday, September 23, 2013.
A bicyclist with three dogs in tow cross J and 22nd Streets in Sacramento on Monday, September 23, 2013. mcrisostomo@sacbee.com

For years, Sacramento officials have been reducing lanes on major central city streets to slow traffic and give pedestrians and people on bikes more elbow room.

Now, the city has its eyes on a few new streets for possible road diets. Those include Broadway, just south of downtown, and sections of perhaps the biggest central city street of them all, J Street.

It’s part of Sacramento Grid 2.0, a reassessment by the city of how to make the central city more livable, and an easier place to get around for types of locomotion other than cars: buses, trains, trolleys, as well as pedestrians and bicyclists.

Planner Fedolia Harris says the city will come up with a priority list of potential tweaks to downtown and midtown streets, perhaps late this year, and submit them to the City Council for discussion.

Why now? In the next decade, the city hopes to add 10,000 new housing units downtown, turning the central city into a bit more of a live-work area, rather than the commute area it has been. West Sacramento, across the river, is doing the same.

Broadway between Interstate 5 and Highway 99 is ripe for an all-around upgrade, Councilman Steve Hansen and other city officials say. That starts with calming the sometimes speedy traffic there, possibly by reducing traffic lanes and by redesigning sidewalks. City officials are out talking with people now, soliciting ideas.

Another idea being studied is the narrowing of J Street in two spots, between Third and Ninth streets downtown, and east of 21st Street in midtown.

The downtown section of J serves as the launch pad into downtown each morning for thousands of commuters off Interstate 5. (It will also be a key entry point evenings for eventgoers at the downtown arena, which will open late next year.)

Traffic engineers are analyzing how much congestion they’d cause if they reduce a few blocks there from four lanes to three, and then from three to two. That would allow them to carve out space for a bus-only lane, similar to Market Street in San Francisco, and make it easier for thousands of expected future residents of the railyard to walk to K Street and downtown offices.

Farther east, in midtown, beyond 21st Street, the city is studying what would happen if J Street were reduced from three to two lanes. That could allow space for bike lanes, and would slow traffic a bit, making it easier for the pedestrians that stroll between the restaurants, shops, galleries and bars that line the corridor.

The possibility prompts questions: How much would it worsen the afternoon commute traffic? Would it push traffic to other streets? Would it be easier to park on J Street because traffic would be slower, or harder because cars would be more bunched?

Harris said Sacramento Grid 2.0 includes looking at ways to turn some of the central city’s alleys into more usable spaces. Harris pointed to Liestal Alley, home to the original Old Soul Co. cafe, as well as alley-facing condos and businesses.

“An alley doesn’t just have to be where you put your trash,” Harris said. “They can be activated. People who want to walk the dog, but not deal with as many cars can use them.”

The Sacramento Grid 2.0 website is www.sacgrid.com/.

Bike festival

If you’re up for pedaling in the rolling hills, without cars to bother you, Sunday is your moment. It’s called the Great Scott Road Bike and Walk Event. Three roads – Scott, White Rock and Placerville – will be blocked off between 8 a.m. and 4 p.m. for bikes and pedestrians only.

The event is one of several kickoffs for Sacramento’s celebration of bike month. There will be food trucks, music and a biking festival at two entrances to the biking area: White Rock Road and Luyung Drive, and at Placerville Road.

Call The Bee’s Tony Bizjak, (916) 321-1059.

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