Enthusiasm for Ericksen plan mixedSidewalks and bike lanes conflict with some properties.
June 9, 2008 · Updated 3:53 PM
"The battle of good vs. good raged full tilt Monday night as the city public works officials presented various plans for Ericksen Avenue improvements.What people want, it seemed, is both more and less.On the one hand, pedestrian and bicycle advocates urged more sidewalks and bike lanes on the narrow downtown corridor.On the other hand, much of the audience - adjacent property owners in particular - want less asphalt and concrete, and didn't much like the idea of a street as wide as Madison Avenue, minus the center turn lane, cutting through the historic neighborhood.This will be a lot wider street than it is now, said city engineer Jeff Jensen conceded. But whatever it is that falls out of the plan, you'll have advocates for that who are unhappy.ProposalsThe city plans to upgrade Ericksen next year, and will have at least $150,000 in state money available for the project. Monday's public meeting at city hall was part of the design process, and followed several smaller meetings already held around the Ericksen neighborhood.The basic design for the street is dictated by the Winslow Master Plan, according to Matthew Bonus of the city Department of Public Works. That plan calls for bike lanes, sidewalks and traffic calming on both sides of Ericksen from Winslow Way to Wallace Way.The preferred traffic-calming feature would be planter strips on both sides of the street between the sidewalks and the curbs. Bonus said the foliage narrows the perceived width of a street, which slows vehicles. The strips would also separate pedestrian and vehicle traffic.But all of those desired features require space - in most instances, state-mandated minimums for construction. And when everything is added up, Bonus said, the master-plan design requires a right-of-way corridor of 55 feet - the same sidewalk-to-sidewalk width as Madison Avenue. Curb to curb, the street would be the width of Ferncliff Avenue.How close will that put the street to my house? one resident asked.The answer, according to Jensen, is real close - the sidewalk would be three to four feet from the front doors of some of the historic cottages on the east side of Ericksen. At least one building - the offices of the Olsen & Olsen law firm - would have to be moved backwards to accommodate such a design.Bonus presented one possible modification - there is no formal proposal yet - under which bike lanes would not be continuous on the western or downhill side of Ericksen, and sidewalks would not be continuous on the east side, where the setbacks are smallest.The project would essentially be tailored to available right-of-way - 55 feet in some areas, perhaps as little as 40 feet in others where buildings and other physical constraints exist. In any case, Bonus said, sidewalks would be designed around significant trees, meandering around the monkey puzzle tree in front of the dive shop, the large trees on the old pet store property, and possibly others.But the notion of intermittent sidewalks was poorly received by Orabelle Connally, an advocate for senior-citizen pedestrians.People won't cross the street when the sidewalk ends, she said. They'll walk in the street.Carol Thornburgh, who said she has watched Ericksen for 20 years from her insurance office, said the best solution might be one-way traffic northbound, another of the possible scenarios Bonus presented.Jensen said, though, that business owners might object to one-way traffic because anyone who missed their address the first time would have to go around a long block. But Thornburgh did not share Jensen's concerns.People get used to the one-way streets in Seattle, and they would get used to this, she said.In the past, Bainbridge fire officials have expressed concern about one-way traffic northbound, saying the department needs Ericksen as a possible access route to downtown, especially if Avenue were blocked.And Jensen has said that the Seattle comparison is flawed, because while Seattle has a large number of north-south streets that are close together, Bainbridge has few streets between Winslow Way and High School Road.One bike advocate, Tom Greene, said the bike lanes may not be necessary, particularly on the downhill side. And he said that even though the traffic lanes are the only thing that would not be widened, the plan was still auto-oriented.If you make it more like an arterial, cars will go faster, and there will be more of them, he said. The only thing safe for bikes is slow cars. Public comment is still being taken on the various proposals, and can be submitted to the public works department. "