Going both ways

Traffic circulation and neighborhood livability have often clashed in Sacramento’s central city. But it has only been in recent years that the primacy of moving cars in and out of Downtown has begun to take a back seat to the idea of making the streets safer for bicycles and pedestrians.

First came the city’s traffic-calming efforts, in which traffic circles, half-street closures and other tools for slowing down automobiles were employed on a handful of Midtown streets. Now comes an effort to rid the central city of many of its one-way streets.

City officials will kick off the year-long, $1.9 million Central City Two-Way Conversion Study with a public workshop on July 18 from 4:30 to 7:30 p.m. in the Sacramento Central Library, 828 I St. (at the corner of two one-way streets).

The study marks a major philosophical shift in urban planning. Sacramento and many other cities in the United States created systems of one-way streets back in the 1950s and ’60s, usually designed in pairs to get the people in quickly in the morning and out in the afternoon (for example, commuters can take P or 15th streets to work and Q or 16th streets home).

Yet that rapid flow of traffic has also made Sacramento among the most dangerous cities in the country for pedestrians and bicyclists, and detracted from the livability of the neighborhoods along well-traveled arterials.

“A lot of this is in response to the concerns the city has heard from residents,” said Hector Barron, who is coordinating the study for the city. “It’s a desire to make the streets more compatible for bikes and pedestrians.”

The study will prioritize the central city’s 23 one-way streets as candidates for conversion to two-way traffic and possibly the installation of bike lanes. Among the factors going into that list are proximity to freeways and light rail, and the continuing need to prevent major traffic bottlenecks.

“You’ll see some that are very poor candidates, because there is still a need to move traffic,” Barron said.

He stresses that not all of the one-way streets will be converted, and that it will probably take years to work down the list. Beyond just repainting the lines on the street, converting some streets will involve changes in traffic signals. The study will also identify costs involved in conversion.

Next week’s public workshop will be the first of three. For more information, visit www.cityofsacramento.org.