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Lower Great Highway safety plan moves forward

by Michael Durand

The SF Municipal Transportation Agency (SFMTA) held an open house on Sept. 12 at the Sunset Cooperative Nursery School on Lawton Street to allow west side residents to give feedback on a plan to enact pedestrian safety measures along the Lower Great Highway.

LGH Meeting large

 Local residents study plans for Lower Great Highway improvements.Photo by Michael Durand.

The forum featured informational posters along with SFMTA staff members answering questions and accepting comments on near-term plans for the Lower Great Highway.

The proposed changes have been divided into two plans: near-term and medium-term. The proposed near-term measures include red visibility zones (“daylighting”), painted safety zones, back-in angled parking, signage improvements and refreshed and updated roadway striping.

The SFMTA conducted a previous open house in April for community feedback on the near-term proposals as well as two public hearings at City Hall: one in July and another on Sept. 14. The final proposal for the near-term plan will be presented to the SFMTA’s board of directors in October. The public is invited to give feedback directly to the board.

Meetings have not yet been scheduled for the medium-term measures, which include plans for raised crosswalks at three intersections along the LGH and a median island. The meeting dates, sometime in late 2018, will be posted on the SFMTA’s website, emailed to its distribution list (people can sign up on the SFMTA website) and notices  will be posted along the Lower Great Highway.

Judi Gorski, a local resident since 1978, attended the Sept. 12 meeting. She supports most of the elements in the plan.

“What I’m not too supportive of is the plan to put in modified speed humps,” Gorski said. “My concern about speed humps is, when the Great Highway closes, the traffic on the Lower Great Highway is going to increase phenomenally. I think it would be better to have more signage and a greater police presence giving tickets with heavy fines for running stop signs and exceeding the speed limit.”

Steve Ward, who has lived in the neighborhood for more than 20 years, represents the La Playa Park Coalition, an umbrella organization comprised of La Playa Watch Group and La Playa Park Merchants Association. Ward said he supports most of the project, with reservations.

“At the N-Judah streetcar turnaround there are serious pedestrian zone blind spots created by the N-Judah parking on the turnaround as a layover,“ Ward said. “The N-Judah should layover at the general boarding stop at 48th and Judah, unless someone is waiting at the handicap ramp. That would solve the pedestrian blind spot and traffic merging on the Lower Great Highway. This (SFMTA) plan doesn’t do that,”

Nick Smith is a transportation planner who is managing the Lower Great Highway Pedestrian Improvements Project for the SFMTA. He said the plan was “inspired by concerns that came from SF Supervisor Katy Tang’s office and comments from residents near the Lower Great Highway related to the lack of pedestrian visibility when crossing the street as well as speeding and unsafe driving,”

Smith said the bulk of the feedback on the first draft of the plan was from residents concerned about the loss of 40 parking spaces. The revised near-term plan added angled, back-in parking on the west side of the Lower Great Highway between Kirkham and Lawton streets, which dropped the number of parking spaces lost to 14.

“We are now getting ready to take the near-term improvements to the SFMTA Board of Directors for consideration in October,” Smith said.

Smith said that he welcomes emails with feedback on the process. For more information, go to the website at http://www.sfmta.com.

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