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Berkeley transportation commission to discuss converting 3 city streets to 2-way streets

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FEBRUARY 17, 2015

The city transportation commission will listen to student voices and weigh the impacts of a possible conversion of Bancroft Way, Durant Avenue and Dana Street into two-way streets at its meeting Thursday evening.

A study conducted by Fehr & Peers Transportation Consultants stated that the proposed two-way conversions would concentrate congestion in intersections with traffic lights but that, overall, this would not have an adverse impact on traffic operations. The study estimated a total cost of about $5 million for the plan.

The project, which initially called for the conversion of only Bancroft Way and Durant Avenue, was first introduced to the City Council in 2013. These conversions were among many improvements suggested by Berkeley Design Advocates, a volunteer group of architects and urban planners. City Council’s transportation division delegated further research to Fehr & Peers.

The consulting company also suggested the conversion of Dana Street into a two-way street in addition to Bancroft Way and Durant Avenue, citing potentially unsafe bike routes that could lead to uneven bike traffic along Spieker Plaza, near the Haas Pavilion.

The study recommends that the project incorporate either a shared bike and car lane, in addition to a separate bike lane in the opposite direction, or bike lanes in both directions — the latter option would replace on-street parking. The whole conversion, at an estimated cost of $1 million, would “improve its safety and functionality as a bike route,” according to the study, as there is currently only one bike lane from Bancroft Way to Dwight Way.

UC Berkeley alumnus and Pennsylvania State University assistant civil engineering professor Vikash Gayah is the author of a study that argues that two-way streets serve traffic more efficiently. Gayah, however, noted that altering only two or three streets would be somewhat less efficient than altering an entire network of streets and that results could go either way.

Gayah said that with the high pedestrian usage — especially by students — of Bancroft Way and Durant Avenue, converting the streets could result in more collisions with vehicles coming from both sides.

At the same time, Gayah said streets could also become safer “as a result of the conversion, as drivers will have to be more aware of the increase in pedestrians coming from both sides of the road.”

Gayah predicts that the project will be costly and said changing traffic signals and repainting road signs alone will require large amounts of funding. Indeed, the transportation commission estimated the cost of altering traffic signals and signs for all three streets to be $2.3 million — approximately 46 percent of the total budget needed for construction.

“It is ultimately about what the community wants and what will benefit them,” Gayah said.

City spokesperson Matthai Chakko noted that no further action would be taken at this time.

Contact Jessie Qian at [email protected].

FEBRUARY 18, 2015