Few deny the deeply rutted obstacle course filling the role of major arterial is well past its expiration date. Tuesday evening's unanimous vote, sets in motion construction that should wrap up this autumn, thanks to a million dollar federal grant. Better sidewalks, curb ramps and safer crossings are part of the design.
Plans to add bicycle lanes, though, left cycling advocates dumbfounded. The road is too busy, too steep and too narrow for safe lanes, they argued and a safe alternative using parallel streets would prove far superior for cyclists and drivers.
But, elected leaders learned shifting gears now could kill the entire project, as Diana Rich learned, while questioning city engineer consultant Mario Landeros.
"If we remove bike lanes completely from this project, we are in face jeopardizing the receipt of this funding, completely, am I wrong about that," Rich asked. "You are not wrong, that is correct, Landeros replied."
One council member after another said they wouldn't personally use the lanes for safety reasons, while lamenting that bicycle infrastructure was likely the hook that attracted federal dollars.
Councilwoman Sandra Maurer summed up the feeling, "We desperately need this road re-paved, but I do believe this is not a safe place to encourage bicycling. I would not want children to be in these bike lanes."
Landeros cautioned that it was simply too late to make changes, referring to the National Environmental Policy Act.
"There is a defined NEPA-approved project. And, going outside of those parameters, changing it, I think we start to look at jeopardizing what the grant's intent was at the time the city applied for it. That scenario we have to be very careful with."
A contract is expected to go out to bid shortly. Construction, from High Street to Robinson Road is expected this summer and fall. Repairs extending to Pleasant Hill Road will occur at a later date.