Officials are interested in building a new protected bike lane through downtown San Bruno which is intended to accommodate cyclists while also preserving all existing lanes for cars.
A majority of the San Bruno City Council favored during a Tuesday, March 30, meeting constructing the new bike path connecting Centennial Way and San Bruno Avenue.
The option supported by Mayor Rico Medina as well as councilmembers Linda Mason and Tom Hamilton was picked because it preserved all existing four lanes for traffic along Huntington Way.
Citing concerns that an alternative design that would have resulted in the loss of one lane for cars, Mason balanced her fears over worsened traffic against an interest in promoting alternative modes of transportation.
“I just don’t feel like it would be prudent to take away any more lanes,” said Mason.
Furthering her point, Mason said an uptick in development is targeting the area and that all existing lanes will be necessary to accommodate the anticipated influx of residents and workers.
Likeminded officials raised similar issues, noting that traffic congestion in the area is already a problem that could grow even worse as more residential and commercial developments are constructed.
The preferred alternative identified by councilmembers is slated to cost as much as $6.8 million, though officials expect roughly half the cost will be addressed through grant programs and additional financing may be available as well.
The new lane will not be constructed for a few years, but selecting the design will help officials move ahead through the grant application process.
The design selected by officials aligns with recommendations from officials who believe the project will improve bicycle and pedestrian access, address traffic concerns and position the city best to apply for grant money.
Councilman Michael Salazar maintained a different perspective though, favoring a proposal to close one lane of traffic along Huntington Avenue in favor of building the new protected bike lane.
“I think if we want to prioritize this as a pedestrian and bicycle friendly corridor, I think we need to deprioritize making it vehicle friendly and I think trying to do both will prove to be extremely expensive and ultimately it will fail,” he said.
Regarding traffic congestion concerns, Salazar said he believed drivers would take different routes if they are aware that it is difficult to drive near downtown. Additionally, he said reducing the amount of lanes could encourage locals to become more reliant on public transportation, such as BART or Caltrain.
He added the proposal to shutter the lane was the cheapest of the three options at only $1.2 million, and that the city could afford the construction without relying on grant availability.
“Let’s make this low-hanging fruit, let’s go with the option that we can afford and the one that we can probably complete in the shortest amount of time,” he said.
Hamilton though said he did not subscribe to the line of thinking that road diets are effective, and said it is more likely that the congestion which would form downtown will just be pushed to other parts of the city.
Mason concurred, while questioning Salazar’s position that removing the lane would incentivize public transportation ridership.
“I think we have to be realistic that people are going to drive,” she said.
Because the project is proposed near the police station, officials asked Police Chief Ryan Johansen whether he had strong feelings about the design. Johansen said he’d prefer all vehicle lanes be left open, to assure prompt response times by his officers.
In an attempt to compromise between the two differing sides, others favored a proposal to construct a smaller bike lane from San Bruno Avenue to Herman Street which would have preserved all existing vehicle lanes.
But officials said the limited project would threaten their ability to receive the necessary grant funding.
For his part, City Manager Jovan Grogan touted the option ultimately selected by officials as the best solution for the community.
“It is the best outcome for San Bruno and maintaining the travel lane but also having those protected bike lanes and maintaining the nearly $3 million in grant funds that have already been dedicated to this project,” he said.
Note to readers: this article has been amended to note that Mayor Rico Medina supported the option to preserve all lanes of traffic.