South Willamette Street—home to such destinations as Market of Choice, the Glenwood, True Value Hardware, Capella Market, and many other great local businesses, will be repaved in 2018, thanks to a bond measure approved by voters last fall.  This creates an opportunity to convert this street, currently a nightmare for walking and bicycling, into a Complete Street that is safer and more pleasant for everyone.  But there’s lot of work to do . . .

City staff originally presented five options for a re-design of Willamette Street.  After a Community Forum on February 27, staff reduced the options to three:  a Four-Lane “as is” Option, a “Three Lane with Bike Lanes” Option, and a “Three Lanes with Wide Sidewalks” Option.  These three options are being studied in depth, and the results of that study will be presented at a Public Meeting on June 11, 2013.  At some point after that meeting, one option will be selected as the Preferred Alternative that will be studied and designed further and presented to the City Council in the fall.

For most bike advocates, the bottom line is that we need on-street bicycle access on Willamette Street.  The concept that has generated the most interest creates space for bike lanes by reducing the travel lanes for autos from four lanes to three:  one lane in each direction, and a center turn lane. (see “Three Lanes with Bike Lanes” conceptual drawing above).  In addition, the City would work to reduce the number of driveways opening onto Willamette and help businesses reconfigure their parking for greater efficiency.

Examples from other cities suggest that this configuration could slow traffic speeds with minimal increase in congestion, improve safety for all modes, make the street more attractive for walking and bicycling, and improve the business environment for businesses located on the street.  But Eugene has never tried removing a travel lane on a street like Willamette, so there is a great deal of fear and opposition to this option.  Bike advocates will need to gain the support of nearby residents, businesses, community leaders, and ultimately the City Council to achieve a Willamette Street that is truly welcoming to those travelling by bike.

A grassroots group is heading up the Willamette Street campaign.  The GEARs Board will also be asked to endorse a bike-friendly option, and to support the campaign.  For more information, contact Kelsey Moore at kelseymoore@arrivingbybike.com.

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