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Another Ped Street Bites the Dust

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  • michelle@giansante.net
    The last surviving pedestrian street in Eugene, OR will be opened to vehicular traffic again: Broadway plan wins acclaim, approval By DIANE DIETZ The
    Message 1 of 1 , Jan 25, 2002
      The last surviving pedestrian street in Eugene, OR will be opened to
      vehicular traffic again:

      Broadway plan wins acclaim, approval
      The Register-Guard

      Gushing with enthusiasm, the Eugene City Council unanimously approved a
      $2.4 million plan Wednesday for reopening Broadway.

      City staff members said they would open the rebuilt street just in time
      to block it off for the annual Eugene Celebration in the downtown blocks
      in September.

      "Bravo on the work you've done," Councilor Pat Farr told the staff. "This
      is great."

      The newly designed city streetscape will replace the remnants of a
      pedestrian shopping mall created 30 years ago when the city sealed off
      Broadway, Willamette and Olive streets.

      The mall concept fell out of favor after businesses fled or failed and
      homeless youths laid claim to the area.

      The city reopened Olive Street in 1992 and followed with Willamette
      Street in 1996. Voters approved reopening Broadway by a 2-to-1 ratio last

      The City Council was happy with the financing package that the staff
      assembled to pay for the reconstruction of the street: $1.6 million from
      the Lane County road fund, $634,000 from the city and $200,000 in the
      form of a promissory note from property owners along the street.

      The private contribution was negotiated by Downtown Eugene Inc.

      "We easily reached agreement," City Manager Jim Johnson said.

      The public/private proportions were roughly equal to the mix government
      and business paid to reopen Willamette Street, Johnson said.

      Councilor Bonny Bettman said the city should assess property owners so
      they pay more than the $200,000 share. The city contribution to the
      project is ``$634,000 of very business-friendly dollars,'' she said.
      Still, Bettman said she was so supportive of the project, she couldn't
      help but vote yes.

      Councilors also seemed enamored with the street features that a
      public/private team of designers came up with.

      The look is patterned after the existing East Broadway - the block with
      Zenon Cafe and J. Michaels Books - largely because it's the most
      successful commercial block downtown, team member Denny Braud said.

      Features include generous 12-foot sidewalks that are meant to be meeting
      and gathering areas, which can accommodate outdoor bistro seating - all
      shaded with no fewer than 60 trees.

      "I envision this as a place where people linger," Farr said.

      The designers abandoned an earlier plan for a gently meandering street.
      Businesses didn't like the idea because drivers would have to concentrate
      on the curves instead of being able to glance at store windows, city
      staff members said.

      The new road will have 10-foot-wide traffic lanes with landscaped center
      medians to create the psychological sense of narrowing and make drivers
      slow down.

      The design also features "bulb outs" where the sidewalk bulges into the
      street, and gradually tapered, 6-inch-high bumps at pedestrian crossings.

      That's a departure from the Willamette Street reopening design, where
      engineers chose wider lanes to make it easier for bicycles and cars to
      share the road. But that design backfired when the wide lanes allowed
      auto traffic to speed up.

      "It's less hospitable for bicyclists," Chris Henry, a city transportation
      planning engineer said.

      Councilor Betty Taylor looked over the plans and asked, "Is there a
      guarantee it will look better than Willamette?"

      "In my estimation, yes," Public Works Director Kurt Corey said.

      The new street was designed to easily convert to an outdoor festival
      site, Henry said. The street surface will be level with Broadway Plaza,
      so revelers won't trip on the curbs when the street is closed. And
      designers avoided using immovable objects such as bollards or planters,
      so the space will be flexible for events.

      The design team asked for feedback from property owners, neighbors,
      downtown merchants and the public repeatedly before finalizing the plans,
      Corey said.

      "No single entity owns the design," he said. "They were all in on it."

      Councilor David Kelly praised the result. "This balances all the
      interests quite well," he said.

      The council also liked the proposed time line, which calls for design
      work to be completed in the next couple of weeks, the bid package to be
      ready in six weeks, the construction to get under way by May - and the
      grand opening (and closure) in time for the Eugene Celebration.

      City staffers were all smiles after the high-spirited council meeting.

      "This is an important project, symbolically more than anything," Braud

      That's especially true when it's considered alongside all the initiatives
      planned - or under construction - downtown, including the new city
      library, the new federal courthouse and the revamped train station, Braud

      "If they do happen like we think they'll happen, it's easy to get excited
      about downtown being a better place," he said.
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