Downtown merchants remain split about the city’s plan to reduce the four lanes of Petaluma Boulevard to two starting next summer. The project will take out a lane in each direction of the boulevard between East Washington and E streets, and make the remaining lanes wider. It would also add a left turning lane at B Street and Western Avenue and add more depth to each parking spot.
Work is expected to start at the end of July 2012 and be completed in three months. But merchants say that’s getting dangerous close to the holiday season, a risk they just can’t afford to take in a shaky economy.
“They really need to be done by the end of October because that’s when the holiday season starts,” said Linda Postenrieder, co-owner of who opposes the project.
Postenrieder would like to see parking extended on all of Water Street, instead of being closed off halfway like it is now. An avid bike rider, she’s also concerned that the reduction of a lane on the boulevard will make the thoroughfare more dangerous for cyclists.
“Right now, I can take a lane and have traffic going around me, but with one lane, I will be backing up traffic,” she said.
But many other merchants are in favor of the project, saying they agree that it will help reduce accidents and make it easier to park downtown.
“I think it’s going to be a good thing for us,” said Holly Wick, owner of , a sporting goods store at Western Avenue and Petaluma Boulevard. But she too is concerned about the project dragging on for more than the allotted time.
“The worst thing for downtown would be to extend the construction into winter 2013,” Wick said. “The key to this is ‘Can the city deliver it in a timely manner?’”
A city staffer in charge of the project who did not want to go on the record, said there are already provisions in place that require the project to be completed by the start of holidays. The hard part, it seems, is convincing local businesses.
Do you think the so-called “road diet” will help reduce accidents and increase parking? Are you optimistic that the city can finish the project in three months? Tell us in the comments.
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