Another Ped Street Bites the Dust
- The last surviving pedestrian street in Eugene, OR will be opened to
vehicular traffic again:
Broadway plan wins acclaim, approval
By DIANE DIETZ
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
"Bravo on the work you've done," Councilor Pat Farr told the staff. "This
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
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,
"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.