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The Citrus Heights City Council on Thursday gave direction to staff and consultants to pursue developing a plan that would include permanently replacing one lane of traffic with a separated bikeway in each direction on a section of Old Auburn Road. A final vote on the plan is scheduled for the end of March.
The city previously tested the idea of a “road diet” lane replacement on Old Auburn Road last year from Oct. 19-27, which generated significant controversy.
During a Feb. 27 study session, the city’s consultant, with Fehr & Peers, presented two options to the council for the congested section of Old Auburn Road near Fair Oaks Boulevard: eliminate one lane of traffic in both east and westbound directions, or eliminate one lane only on the westbound direction.
In each scenario, a three-foot vertical buffer would be installed in each direction to create a separated bikeway in an effort to make bicyclists “feel more comfortable using busy roadways.” Options for buffers include raised medians, flexible posts, planter islands or similar alternatives, although council members spoke against the use of flexible posts due to aesthetic concerns.
Each option presented included a dedicated center turn lane, while the reduced lane option in both directions would allow for wider six-foot landscaping between the bikeway and sidewalks (sidewalks would also be wider, at eight feet). The second alternative would not have room for landscaping on the westbound side, and would also have smaller five-foot sidewalks on both sides of the road.
During the 40-minute study session, council members Jeannie Bruins and Porsche Middleton said they favored the option to reduce lanes in both directions down to one, while Councilman Bret Daniels and Vice Mayor Steve Miller said they could “live with” either option.
According to data presented by the consultant, lane reductions in both directions would increase travel times on certain routes through the area during peak hours of traffic by 50 percent, or about one minute. The alternative option of only the westbound lane being eliminated would have a less-significant effect on travel times.
Although giving direction for staff to pursue finalizing the plan for Old Auburn Road with lane reductions in both directions, council member comments made during the session indicated they weren’t fully set on either option. A final vote won’t take place until later this month.
“I’m good with either (option) one or two,” said Mayor Jeff Slowey in his comments during the meeting, noting he travels the corridor daily. “I mean, something’s got to be done, let’s be honest.”
Bruins said she favored option one, to reduce lanes in both directions, but said she “could live with two too.” She also said she wanted to “discourage more cut-through” traffic on Old Auburn and encourage drivers to take main arterials like Sunrise Boulevard, acknowledging that would mean living with congestion when traveling during commute times on Old Auburn.
Bruins said she initially favored the second option, but changed her mind after talking to city staff and noting that the right-hand turn lane onto Fair Oaks Boulevard would be lengthened so drivers in the turn lane could avoid waiting behind cars stopped at the light.
Slowey concluded the session by telling staff the council was “leaning” towards the first option to reduce lanes in both directions.
“So I think the direction is we’re leaning towards one,” said Slowey, adding that: “We want it to be beautiful, but cheap.”
See full slide presentation from the Feb. 27 study session: click here
Although much of the study session focused on the area of Old Auburn Road nearest Fair Oaks Boulevard, options presented were part of an overall year-long planning process the city has been working on called the Old Auburn Road Complete Streets project, which includes the 1.8-mile stretch from Garry Oak Drive to Sylvan Corners.
Complete Street projects, as described on the city’s website, seek to make streets “safe, convenient and comfortable for all users, regardless of age, ability, or how one feels while traveling.”
The plan for Old Auburn Road will now be finalized and presented to the council for a vote on March 26, according to the city’s principal civil engineer.
A followup story on what’s planned for the full project will be published in The Sentinel’s March 8 Weekend Edition. (Sign up here)
Want to share your thoughts on roadway changes being considered? Click here to submit a letter to the editor. Contact information for City Council members is also posted online, and the entire council can be emailed together at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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