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Phoenix dumps Main Street road diet

Phoenix City Council voted Monday to return Main Street to two lanes, which would end the short-lived “road diet” era that reduced traffic to one lane for the past two-plus years.

But the change won’t happen until next spring and must first gain a variance from city Transportation System Plan standards.

Most of 13 speakers who addressed the council Monday urged a return to two lanes, although two opposed the change. Mayor Chris Luz read emails into the record, and only one called for retention of the current setup.

“It’s overwhelming support for going back to two lanes. We are hearing from businesses that the configuration is driving business out of town,” said Councilor Terry Baker, who made the motion directing staff to prepare designs and engineering standards for a two-lane configuration.

The city switched southbound Main Street and northbound Bear Creek Drive to single lanes in the fall of 2015. A bike lane was added and parking spots remained on both sides of Main Street. But faced with a stream of complaints, the city said it would review the setup. Main Street is scheduled to be repaved in the next fiscal year, at which time the street could be restriped for double lanes. The work would extend from north of Sixth Street to the south couplet where Bear Creek Drive splits off from Highway 99.

The council approved a plan that would include two 11-foot-wide southbound lanes, a 5.5-foot-wide bike lane on the west side, a 6-foot-wide landscape and sidewalk strip on the west side, along with parking on the west side and much of the east side. Pedestrian safety measures would include bulb-outs — or curb extensions that protect walkers — and rapid flashing beacons at key intersections.

Since the 2015 change, a new Transportation System Plan was adopted by the city. That plan calls for minimum widths that the proposed two-lane setup would not meet. But the Planning Commission could grant a variance to the standards to allow for the change.

A similar variance from standards was recently granted by the commission for rebuilding Church Street. The city was the applicant for the Church Street variance and likely would fill that role for Main Street.

Planning Director Evan MacKenzie cautioned the council members that they should proceed with the assumption that approval of a variance would be appealed. Because the council would hear any appeal, councilors should not discuss the issue, MacKenzie said.

Public complaints about the single-lane street included long lines of cars on Main making turns from side streets difficult, drivers using parking spaces or the bike lane before making turns off of Main, and drivers jockeying for position where the road goes from two to one lane on its north end.

“I’ve never seen anything more disturbing than switching the road to one lane,” said Sandra Christiansen, a former resident who still has a business in town. “Quite honestly, it is quite hazardous.”

A total of $475,000 is included in the proposed budget for the Main Street project during the next fiscal year. That amount would include an overlay of Bear Creek Drive. Funds would come from state gas tax revenues and city street utility fees.

Baker’s motion also called for a target speed limit of 20 miles per hour in the corridor and flashing pedestrian warnings at intersections staff deemed appropriate. The city would need to work with the state on setting speed limits.

“I believe it’s incumbent upon us to improve the crossing conditions at all intersections,” said Public Works Director Ray DiPasquale.

Tony Boom is an Ashland freelance writer. Reach him at tboomwrtier@gmail.com.