Improvements to north Healdsburg Avenue are one step closer to reality after the Healdsburg City Council instructed city staff to move forward with a partial design of the preferred concept plan for a tree-lined Healdsburg Avenue with reduced travel lanes along the Powell and Parkland Farms stretch, protected bike lanes for cyclists, protected sidewalks and an emergency access lane.
In this second phase of work MIG, the group that is conducting the community input and design process, will develop 30% of the design along with a topography survey, geotechnical analysis, hydrology study and cost estimates. The phase also includes the completion of an environmental review.
The project, which when complete will have overhauled Healdsburg Avenue from the Dry Creek intersection to the north end of town, started with several community input sessions.
Throughout the course of 2019 there were five community focus groups, several interactive surveys, a design workshop and a community open house, all aiming to garner input from residents and local merchants on how best to improve the north Healdsburg Avenue corridor.
An overall community vision for Healdsburg Avenue was distilled down to eight key components: safe; comfortable; well connected; walkable, bikeable and transit reliable; calm traffic; efficient traffic and emergency access; business and economic development; enhanced natural environment; and identifiable.
Residents also voiced the need for more crosswalks, improved access to connecting neighborhoods, the Foss Creek Trail and sidewalks on all areas of the corridor.
During the April 30, 2019 design workshop the small number of crosswalks on the road was a big worry. Numerous attendees said when they cross, they have to wait for a safe time and make a mad across the lanes.
They described it as “very dangerous and an adventure every time.”
Another recurring theme was that the stretch of roadway should have a clear identity that speaks to Healdsburg and be a catalyst for business.
“It’s really energizing to look at all of the ideas the community came up with,” said Mukul Malhotra, a principal urban designer with MIG.
After considering community feedback, MIG came up with concepts for different segments of the road.
Healdsburg Public Works Director Larry Zimmer, said that while this project is still at the conceptual stage, the proposed concepts reflect what residents want to see.
The concept for Powell Avenue to Parkland Farms includes multiple rows of trees lining the street, protected sidewalks, a protected bike lane with a raised buffer and landscaping, an emergency access lane and reduced travel lanes.
This particular stretch of road currently has two lanes in both the south and north directions. With this concept, a middle lane would be created for emergency access and there would be one lane in both directions. There is also an added option to create flexible street parking.
Parkland Farms to Foss Creek is another segment and the design concept also includes protected sidewalks, protected bike lanes, trees and a center emergency lane. The current lane configuration — one lane south and one north, would remain the same.
Council also gave staff direction to continue with the concept design for the Healdsburg Avenue and Dry Creek Road intersection segment.
Based on community feedback, improvements to this area include enhanced bicycle connections to Foss Creek, a protected intersection for pedestrians and bicyclists and enhanced bus stops.
“The improvements pretty much tracks with what the community selected as their preferred options. This looks like it would be a totally fantastic project," Eris Weaver, executive director of the Sonoma County Bicycle Coalition, said during public comment.
Councilmembers also liked the concept plans.
“I wish this was here today,” Councilmember David Hagele said of the plans. “Time seems to fly quicker when your kids are little and I am looking at this and I've pushed strollers on those streets, I've tried riding bikes down with Charlotte and my kids are running into the hedges trying to avoid the telephone poles … So it is definitely something I'm looking forward to for others with little kids.”
To that end, Hagele asked if the telephone poles could be undergrounded, and Zimmer said while they could it would be a big added expense.
Hagele also asked if the proposed added crosswalks would slow down traffic. Zimmer said traffic engineers will study the area to determine the best location and distance between crosswalks.
For pedestrian safety while crossing, flashing walking beacons would likely be added.
Councilmember Shaun McCaffery echoed Hagele’s thoughts of support but asked if reducing lanes on the stretch of road from Powell Avenue to Parkland Farms would bunch up traffic and impact flow.
Zimmer said staff has analyzed current traffic and future traffic flow with the buildout of new homes and said in both instances the lane would meet the demand of traffic flow.
“I am excited about this design,” said Mayor Leah Gold. “Protected bike lanes are huge, because just paint on the sidewalk is not really enough to protect a cyclist. Truly protected bike lanes will be a major improvement.”
In terms of fiscal impact, an agreement with MIG stated that community outreach, design services and the 30% project design would not exceed a cost of $437,010 according to the city agenda packet. Cost estimates of the build out of the project will be completed in this next phase of work.
Once the partial designs and studies and cost estimates are completed the item will likely return to city council for further deliberation.