Disappointing attendance at Brooklyn Road Diet public workshop

A little over a dozen people, most of whom were members of the media, the consulting group or City Hall, attended the second public workshop on the proposed Brooklyn Road Diet.

“More than a year ago the conversation began regards to pedestrian walkability within various streets downtown. Some of the targeted streets to be reviewed for a road diet include Riverside Avenue, Park Street – the connection between the LaVilla and Brooklyn neighborhoods that leads you to 5 Points and Riverside – and Forest Street,” said Aundra Wallace, Downtown Investment Authority CEO. “This is a step we have to take in order to get to a discussion, to make the case, about funding a Brooklyn road diet.”

Those who attended July 27 to provide feedback were Riverside/Avondale residents Kay Ehas, Alicia Grant, and Nancy Powell.

Allan Iosue, a POND & Company Corporation vice president, introduced the workshop with an overview of the consulting group’s goals, which include improving health and safety, making the neighborhood walkable, bikeable, increasing neighborhood connectivity and a connection to downtown, as well as spurring economic development.

“There’s a shift in transportation planning across the country to look at all modes of transportation, a real movement to accommodate bicycles, pedestrians, transit and the vehicle all together,” said Iosue. “The hierarchy has been, through the years, the vehicle first and the other modes were lower, so now we’re trying to reverse that trend. Our goal was to create a study that would provide recommendations, how can you look at this in different increments, big picture, small picture opportunities.”

Richard Fangmann, POND & Company, and Jaimie Sloboden, Michael Baker International, discussed a variety of options for each of the three roads – Riverside Avenue, Park Street and Forest Street – under review, including protected two-way bicycle paths, bus-bike shared lanes, parking lanes, landscaped medians, landscaped 15-foot sidewalks, Bus Rapid Transit lane and stops. On-street parking on Park Street is being considered for future retail growth of the Brooklyn neighborhood, as well as a connection to the Northbank Riverwalk from Forest Street.

“Riverside Avenue between Forest and Leila Streets is currently 102 feet curb to curb, three lanes in each direction, with two 5-foot unprotected bicycle lanes,” said Sloboden.

Iosue pointed out over the past 25 years Riverside Avenue has fluctuated well below the average daily traffic capacity of 35,000 vehicles, so the option to reduce the number of lanes is not considered to be an issue at this time. During the same period, roughly 1990 to present, Park Street was also well under its 15,000 average daily traffic capacity.

The consulting team indicated Park Street to be the safest option for bicycles and pedestrians, and providing for both would bring more businesses to that area of Brooklyn.

A fair amount of discussion centered on what Sloboden called “the elephant in the room” – the Water Street / Acosta Bridge area. The pedestrian walkway is narrow and unprotected with confusing crosswalks and refuges, while cyclists cannot continue into Downtown to Water Street, but are instead diverted across the Acosta Bridge.

In the short term, the consulting group recommended installing neighborhood wayfinding and signage, including public access to the Riverwalk; improving the current landscaping by replacing palm trees with shade trees on Forest Street and Riverside Avenue; adding a mid-block crossing at Magnolia Street, as well as street and crosswalk re-striping.

On Park Street, further short-term recommendations include reducing redundant curb cuts, add on-street parking, and upgrade sidewalks for ADA accessibility. Additional improvements for Riverside Avenue include better street lighting, especially at the Winston Family YMCA, fix sidewalk connectivity where there are gaps, and add a buffer to the bicycle lane.

Short- or long-term, “it’s going to boil down to what can we afford,” said Wallace.

Based on the feedback at the workshop, Pond & Company will present final recommendations in September.

If you have an opinion about the proposed Brooklyn Road Diet, send your thoughts to Cantrece Jones at [email protected]

By Kate A. Hallock
Resident Community News

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