From the latest Woodland Heights Civic Association newsletter:
11th Street Safety Improvements: Project Update
The WHCA board hosted City officials (David Fields, Lauren Grove, and Colin Lupold) at the January 10th general meeting. We had around 50 or so on the Zoom call, and feedback from neighbors was positive about the project generally, except with some discrete concerns that the City addressed. Here is a brief recap:
- Timeline. The project is on track to be completed by the end of February.
- Hogg Middle School. The City has heard various reports of problems with pick-up and drop-off. They have met with Hogg officials multiple times, including earlier on Jan 10th. They did not share specifics but they are working on it.
- Signal Lights. They understand that some of the traffic on 11th Street is due to old configuration of the traffic signals. The light signals will be changed at the very end of the project—they can’t do that until all striping and signage is in. So help is on the way.
- Visibility. Several neighbors asked about increased visibility on the curbs and islands. The officials discussed several options and limitations, but will work on it.
- Cut-Through Traffic. Finally, we discussed examples of increased cut-through traffic. The City re-affirmed its commitment to work with the neighborhoods after the project to minimize negative impacts. But these issues are addressed best after construction is complete.
Next Steps: the City will attend our next general meeting in March to follow up on these matters, and we will be communicating with them in the meantime as needed.
The last pre-construction update I had was from June. In September the planning was finalized and initial work was getting set to begin, and around Halloween I first noticed signs on the street announcing the imminent changes. There probably isn’t that much more to do – this stretch of 11th Street is now one car lane each way with a turn lane in place for much of it. The segregated bike lanes are there, some of those pedestrian islands are there, the “No Left Turn” signs at Heights Blvd are there, and any resurfacing that needed to be done was done early on.
And I have to say, for the most part the effect on traffic has been pretty minimal, as the city said it would be. I take this stretch of West 11th several times a week, all around 4 PM, as part of the kid-carpool thing, and other than having to wait longer at the Shepherd light, it’s really no different. I’m rarely tempted to cut over to 10th Street, and from my normal travels around the neighborhood I have not noticed more cars on the side streets. (*) I haven’t noticed a lot of bike traffic, but I have ridden it myself (just once as of this writing, but there will be more) and it’s great. I had always avoided riding on 11th Street in the past, and having a segregated lane makes all the difference. I’m glad to see from this newsletter update that this change has been positively received, because I definitely approve of it. I hope this means there will be more like this elsewhere in the city.
One more aspect of this, as you can see from the embedded image, is on Michaux, which connects 11th to Stude Park and the White Oak and MKT bike trails. The only changes on Michaux have been the addition of “Bike Trail” street signs and bike lane-type painting on the street itself. I’ve got a plan to do a ride along the whole route and take some pictures in the near future, so you can see that later. They also added a pedestrian island on White Oak at Michaux, so you can’t make a left turn from Michaux southbound onto White Oak, or continue through onto the one extra block of Michaux before it runs into Stude Park. That has made me redo how I get to the I-10 entrance and points south from Watson, either by taking Norhill and turning left onto White Oak from there or turning left to get to Watson before I reach Michaux. I’ve seen a driver or two get caught by surprise by that and do some ill-advised things to compensate, but I expect that will decrease over time.
Anyway. From where I sit this has been a success, and I’ve not seen any kind of response from the opponents of the project. I can’t wait until the Durham/Shepherd project catches up and you can really get places on your bike. I also need to hop over to North Main and see how that project is coming along. If you’re in this area, what has your experience been with the changes to West 11th Street?
(*) I grew up on Staten Island, New York, where everyone drove on the side streets because the main roads, which were often one lane each way and had bus routes and street parking and no protected left turns, were basically undriveable. So I know from taking side streets. If there’s any increase in side street traffic resulting from the changes to West 11th, I can’t see it.