Now that a stretch of Northwest Circle Boulevard in Corvallis has been repaved and striped with buffered bike lanes, the question becomes: Will this work?
When the city approved the “road diet” plan for Circle, a key component was a six-month monitoring period to determine if the changes are beneficial and whether there are any safety issues. The decision was a staff one, and although the Corvallis City Council was briefed on the issue, councilors did not vote on it.
The summer project added a new surface, curbs and Americans with Disabilities Act amenities while also reducing the number of traffic lanes. The new configuration includes one lane on each side, plus a middle turn lane, except around the intersections with Highland, Kings and 29th. Those regions have two lanes on each side plus a left turn lane. Previously Circle had two lanes on each side except for the block between Kings and 17th, which had two lanes on each side plus a continuous center turn lane.
City monitoring will be conducted in several areas. They include:
• Motor vehicle travel speeds on Circle.
• Travel volumes on Circle for motor vehicles, bicycles and pedestrians.
• Motor vehicle travel volumes on selected neighborhood streets.
• Intersection performance for Circle and Highland Drive, 13th Street, 17th Street, Garryanna Street, Kings Boulevard, 27th Street and 29th Street.
• Corvallis Fire Department response times.
• Motor vehicle, bicycle and pedestrian crashes.
• Corvallis Transit System impacts.
• Community input.
"These criteria," wrote city officials in an Aug. 7 staff report for the City Council, "will be used to determine if the lane reduction is operating satisfactorily or needs to be modified. Acceptable limits for any of the items to be monitored have not been pre-determined. Positive and negative impacts for each will need to be considered in terms of their magnitude, and weighed against the cumulative impacts for all of the listed criteria.
"At the end of the pilot, striping will either be maintained in its post-paving configuration, modified based on the information collected during the pilot phase, or returned to its original configuration."
The changes sparked widespread community interest, with 20 individuals writing letters to the editor and another 29 speaking at a June community forum on the proposed changes.
The city's Bicycle & Pedestrian Advisory Board, which normally would have been the forum to discuss the changes, was not meeting at that time because of the coronavirus, and the public forum was conducted remotely.
One trend in the public comments was that even proponents of the plan felt that continually forcing motorists and bicyclists to adjust to a changing number of lanes might cause confusion. In fact, a sizable number of those favoring the plan called for its implementation throughout the entire section of Circle from Highland to just past 29th.
Key issues raised by opponents were potential traffic snarls because of the lane reductions and possible cut-through traffic on local streets in response. Some also claimed that Circle already is safe in its current configuration.
Bicycle and pedestrian advocates urged the city to do the repaving project according to the new guidelines established by the city’s transportation system plan update, which passed the City Council on Dec. 20, 2018, after a three-year process. City officials agreed, and the road diet went forward.
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