In the wake of soaring gas prices and public transportation woes, bicycles and alternative modes of transportation are becoming more and more attractive to many Tacoma residents. This year, the city of Tacoma is working to make the Pacific Avenue streetscape into a safer and more attractive, bicycle-friendly thoroughfare for commuters, shoppers and residents alike.
The Pacific Avenue streetscape project design team, led by Project Manager Doreen Gavin of Tacoma-based AHBL, has called for public input by inviting residents to a series of design meetings meant to gather feedback from a variety of stakeholders. All public input and ideas received for the project are compiled into a comprehensive document and forwarded weekly to the design team and city staff.
On May 9, about 75 residents attended a design meeting to view plans for two different designs and offer their own feedback on each.
The two-phase project is slated to provide innovative stormwater improvements such as rain gardens and water features, and multi-modal improvements to provide a safer bicycle commute.
Phase 1 focuses on Pacific Avenue from South 7th-17th streets, and phase 2 addresses Tollefson Plaza, Prairie Line Trail and Hood Street.
The differences between the two possible streetscape plans may impact the experience of bicyclists traveling through downtown. The first option would provide a buffered bike lane consisting of a painted separation on the street to separate bikers from vehicle traffic. The second option provides a cycle track, providing complete separation between motorists and bikers by featuring what may look like a second sidewalk space for bicyclists.
"Each concept has its own pluses and minuses," said Steve Durrant, principal at Alta Planning and Design. "But, both of these designs will provide an opportunity for many more people to comfortably ride bicycles in downtown."
So far, the city has received about $4 million in federal grants and local funding, but needs another $4 million within the next year before breaking ground on phase 1.
"We have many good people working hard to find this funding, and we’re very optimistic," City Manager Eric Anderson said.
Designers hope to develop a streetscape that both honors and builds on the unique history and geography of downtown Tacoma.
"This project will take us forward and improve our environment to make downtown the center of commerce in the city," Anderson added.
Both design options call for one lane of traffic in each direction, along with continuous turn lanes. The flow of traffic is expected to either stay the same or slow down slightly. However, slowing traffic in the area may be a positive in the eyes of local business owners. "Pacific Avenue is a commercial street, so slowing people down to see more businesses might be a good idea," Durrant said.
For more information about the Pacific Avenue streetscape, visit www.cityoftacoma.org.