City officials are hoping to make the current temporary bike lane on Street Street between Congress Street and Surface Road permanent by the end of next year - and to widen sidewalks and take steps to make intersections safer for pedestrians and bicyclists.
The entire stretch would be reduced to one vehicle travel lane, except where it widens at Congress, where the current four lanes would be reduced to three, as part of a "people first" approach to prioritize walkers and pedalers over people in motor vehicles, Public Works Project Manager Ashley Biggens said in a recent presentation.
Biggens said city planners are also looking at eliminating curbs and putting sidewalks and the roadway at the same level to make it easier to reconfigure the road for special events, similar to the way Union Street nearby is now configured. If this is done, the city would look to using easily moved plantings, bollards and street furniture to separate pedestrians from cars and trucks when the road is in regular use, she said.
Also part of the planning: Moving loading zones to Chatham and Broad streets and the cab stand just before Congress Street around the corner to Congress. In total, the project could mean reducing the number of parking spaces along the road from 71 to about 62. Sitll under consideration: What to do about State where it meets Surface Road, where planners are looking at possibly creating a "floating" parking space for tour buses to pick up and discharge passengers.
Biggens said a key part of the project is a permanent bike lane on the north side of the road - the side with Al's on it - headed from the Greenway towards the Old State House, which would connect with the city's bike-lane networks and which would be separated from the vehicle lane by a buffer with permanent barriers to protect bicyclists.
For pedestrians, in addition to wider sidewalks, the city would re-stripe and possibly reconfigure intersections to make them safer. Planers are also looking at traffic signals that would give pedestrians several seconds of time to cross before motorists would get a signal to turn, she said.
Biggens said the planning is based on the assumption that pedestrian, vehicle and bicycle traffic along the road will eventually come back to pre-pandemic levels. She said that since the current state of emergency went into effect in March, pedestrian travel along State Street has decreased by 80%, from 29,000 people a day to 5,900, vehicle traffic by 60% and bicycle traffic by 30%.