Bike lanes being added on MacArthur Blvd.

Restriping project will cut vehicle lanes down from current 4 to 2

By Stephanie Rice, Columbian Vancouver city government reporter

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If MacArthur Boulevard were designed today, it would not be a four-lane road, the city's director of public works told the Vancouver City Council on Monday.

The traffic count on the approximately two-mile-long stretch, which runs east-west between Mill Plain Boulevard and Lieser Road in the Heights, doesn't support the need for four lanes, Brian Carlson said during a workshop on upcoming traffic safety projects.

Carlson was explaining the decision to restripe MacArthur with one vehicle lane and a dedicated bicycle lane in each direction. An April vehicle count showed stable traffic between 7 a.m. and 7 p.m., Carlson said, with a few hundred vehicles an hour.

At the start of the workshop, City Manager Eric Holmes reminded councilors that the projects on the agenda had all been discussed and included in the city budget, but they would likely be noticed by the public and he just wanted to make sure councilors would be able to answer questions.

Councilors have received several emails from concerned residents about the decision to restripe MacArthur, but Carlson said the decision was based on several factors, including public input. When a preliminary plan included shared lane markings, or "sharrows," the city heard from concerned cyclists, Carlson said. The posted speed limit is 35 miles per hour, and the traffic study concluded that drivers routinely go faster than the posted limit. Sharrows are recommended for streets with slower posted limits, Carlson said.

The street will be resurfaced as part of the city's pavement management program, Carlson said. Work is scheduled to start in July, and plans call for the work to be finished when school starts on Sept. 4.

Schools support plan

Councilor Larry Smith asked if Vancouver Public Schools weighed in on the decision to restripe the road, as it's home to McLoughlin Middle School and Marshall Elementary School. Carlson said the district was in favor of the plan and believe it will make the road safer, as pedestrians will only have to cross two lanes of vehicle traffic instead of four.

Carlson added that studies have shown lane reductions lead to slower speeds.

There will be right- and left-turn lanes at the primary intersections of Devine Road and Andresen Road, Carlson said, while the off-kilter intersection with Lieser Road will be unchanged. The right-hand turn lanes will share space with the bicycle lane.

There will also be a right-turn lane at Marshall Elementary School.

Carlson said the decision was based in part on the council's policy of encouraging alternative forms of transportation.

Councilors Jack Burkman and Jeanne Stewart said they'd heard from residents concerned that vehicles will cut through neighborhoods in an effort to avoid MacArthur, and Carlson said there are remedies to dissuade motorists if that becomes a problem.

Vancouver Mayor Tim Leavitt pointed out that Mill Plain Boulevard serves as the primary arterial through the Heights, and locals use MacArthur. It likely wouldn't save people time to cut through neighborhoods, he said.

While the cost to resurface and restripe MacArthur wasn't singled out, the work will be done under a contract awarded during Monday evening's council meeting to Valley Slurry Seal of

Sacramento, Calif. The $881,013 low bid was to resurface 44 lane miles; no local companies submitted bids.

Also during Monday's workshop, Carlson discussed ways the city will spend a total of $810,000 in federal safety grants and $499,000 from a state safety grant. The city will spend some of the money to install 21 flashing yellow left-hand turn signals. The city currently has a half-dozen of the signals, which allow drivers to make a left-hand turn when there's no oncoming traffic.

The city will also install seven hybrid beacon crosswalks, like the one installed in 2010 at Fort Vancouver Way at Clark College. Known as HAWK (High-intensity Activated crosswalK), the systems use multiple cues to alert drivers to pedestrians, Carlson said. The new crosswalks will be on Fourth Plain Boulevard at T Street, Z Street, Fairmont Avenue, Neals Lane and Rossiter Lane/Todd Road, and replace flashing yellow lights. On Mill Plain, a new crosswalk will be installed near Andresen Road, replacing flashing yellow lights. A new pedestrian crosswalk will be built at Mill Plain Boulevard and 157th Avenue.

For the total $1.3 million in federal and state grants, the city will contribute $15,000.

Stephanie Rice; 360-735-4508 or stephanie.rice@columbian.com.