Alpine Road Diet Meeting Report

Last night (2015-06-29) a public input meeting was held on the west side in Richmond Park (1101 Richmond St. NW) concerning a proposal to perform a road diet trial on Alpine Ave. This diet includes the recently resurfaced section of Alpine between Leonard St. and Richmond St. This is a trial which would be put in place this summer and observed to determine the lane configuration that would be used for next section of the road to be resurfaced [from Richmond to Ann St]. If the diet proves unsuccessful the lanes will be reverted to a non-diet configuration - as happened with the Fuller St. diet.

For reference: Fuller St. traffic had increased to ~21,000 vehicles per day and over 800 commercial vehicles. Road diet configurations typically target streets with under 16,000 - 18,000 vehicles per day. Updated traffic counts reversed the road diet plans for Fuller St - the road retained its configuration of two lanes in each direction.

The stretch of Alpine Ave in question has ~13,000 cars per day which is roughly equivalent to Plainfield Ave where a road diet configuration has been very effective and recently made permanent by the addition of boulevard islands. The proposed diet configuration for Alpine is one lane in each direction, a left turn lane, and bike lanes; on-street parking will be eliminated. The current roadway varies between three different configurations in just the distance between Leonard and Ann St - two lane, two lanes plus a turn lane, and one lane with unmarked on street parking.

The city reported that it observed on street parking to be minimally used - some residents at the meeting protested saying that the parking is used "24/7". Concerns raised about on-street parking included the typical tropes such as the inconvenience of using driveways, concern over how UPS and FedEX will manage deliveries, etc... One resident countered the defense of on-street parking with the problems it creates for snow removal and driving in winter weather.

Aside: Lower traffic speeds and single lanes make turning off of and onto a road easier and safer.

Other residents voiced their concerns about the difficulty crossing the street and navigating the area as a pedestrian and cyclist. A lady whose husband is a FedEx driver stated that the lack of on-street parking on Alpine will not impact deliveries.

Also voiced was the fear that reducing traffic lanes and speed will inspire road rage - clearly the data regarding traffic calming is not universally accepted. A few citizens voiced an angry mistrust of government in general claiming public meetings are only for show and that no trial is really a trial - the government will just do what it wants anyway [countered by the factual example of Fuller St]. From one of the same citizens was the assertion that the street tax represented a broken promise.

Clarification: The previous tax did expire, as was 'promised' - the expiration was part of the measure itself - the street tax is a new tax, approved by voters in May.

Of course there was the ever present and counter-factual gripe about other road users not paying for roads which was countered by the city with the fact that roads in the city are paid for by property and income tax.

Clarification: Fuel tax, even if accepted as a use tax [which it is not], does come even close to 'paying for roads'. It covers less than half of road costs, on a good day. Roads are funded principally from other sources and general funds - fees paid by everyone.

Only one resident referred to the road using the personal possessive pronoun "my", as in "my lane". This was quickly countered by a resident who is a cyclist pointing out that car drivers have no exclusive right to the lane.

Clarification: Access to roadways for all users is municipal, state, and federal law.

Ultimately the meeting concluded with a show-of-hands vote to determine interest in trying the diet. The result was seventeen to three in favor. A stronger show of support than I would have guessed from the tone of the meeting.

On my way home I took a detour to ride the bicycle path from Richmond St. to Leonard along the railroad tracks - a very pleasant bit of infrastructure I had not had the opportunity to experience before. While on my detour a north bound CSX freight went by. I assume it was Y150 switching traffic between Wyoming and Hugart; I did not do a car count but it was at least two dozen - representing the robust state of our local economy.

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