City To Encourage More Cars On Horton Street;
Bike Safety Endangered
The City of Emeryville has earmarked $50,000 in the Capital Improvement Program to widen Horton Street to encourage more automobile use on the popular bike boulevard the Tattler learned. The move to widen, rejected unanimously by the Bike/Pedestrian Committee, is also counter to the City's own declaration that any decisions or even discussions about the contentious bike boulevard must wait until the new Bike Plan is complete in late 2011. It seems the City itself couldn't wait; the push to widen the street and encourage more cars to use Horton is detailed in a predated January 22 staff report for a public meeting on that date, regarding the new capital improvement budget through 2016.
The Bike/Pedestrian Committee voted three years ago, also unanimously, to limit the number of cars on Horton Street to no more than 3000 a day; the same as Berkeley has done, to encourage safe regional bike transportation. The City Council ignored the committee vote and widened Horton Street anyway during the Park Avenue street improvements last year. Now, all that's needed is to stripe in the extra vehicle lane and that's what the $50,000 is earmarked to do.
The staff report notes the street widening must be done for "public safety" and to improve the "quality of life".
The City has been reluctant to place more traffic on Hollis Street and has picked Horton to take up the slack regardless of clamoring from the bicycle community about safety concerns. The staff report, written by City Manager Pat O'Keeffe, went on to note the widening is needed because of the "cumulative traffic from approved projects" such as the Transit Center near the Amtrak station.
Horton Street has been extremely contentious over the years with the bike community and the business community both vieing for increased accessibility in a limited space. Bike advocates have noted that Horton Street remains the last viable quiet north/south corridor for bikes and they have openly postulated that Berkeley's Alta Planning and Design, the firm charged with writing the new Bike/Pedestrian Plan, will not be allowed to make objective findings owning to political pressure from the City to increase cars on the street. This latest move to earmark $50,000 seems to be the pressure foretold.
The City has shown its desire to widen Horton Street for some time. In anticipation of a future street widening, the staff overturned a Park Avenue Committee's vote to keep the sidewalks of Horton Street at least 12 feet wide several years ago. Later, the City found it needed to narrow the sidewalks a bit more to proporly accomadate the future street widening and the developer was given the go ahead to do so during construcion time, done without notifiying the Park Avenue Committee.
The city council will take public comment at a special Saturday January 22 meeting and make the final vote May 17th.