Parents and children heading to school or Sinsheimer Park in San Luis Obispo’s Laurel Lane area will have safer streets to walk and bike on with the recent completion of safety improvements, according to city officials.
Wider sidewalks, reduced street crossing distances for pedestrians and new crosswalks designed with higher visibility for drivers are part of a $2.5 million upgrade — of which $2.1 million has already been spent, San Luis Obispo officials said.
A 2015 Traffic Safety Report ranked the intersection at Laurel and Southwood Drive among the most dangerous for vehicle collisions with pedestrians on city-maintained streets. In a 2016 report, no Laurel Lane intersections rose to the same level of concern.
More than 180 people cross Laurel Lane every day, including children and parents making their way to and from Sinsheimer Elementary School and Sinsheimer Park, as well as seniors and those using the community garden and local marketplace.
The completed street improvements included widening the sidewalk at two intersections: Laurel Lane and Augusta Street, and Laurel Lane and Southwood Drive.
Crews removed a driving lane in each direction of Laurel Lane, but added a center turn lane. About 30 on-street parking spaces were added as well, with more space available from the driving lane reductions.
“These types of projects (going from four lanes to one in each direction) often result in reduced vehicle speeds along a corridor,” said Jennifer Rice, a city transportation planner and engineer. “The city will continue to monitor Laurel Lane over the next several months to see if this is the case.”
“If so,” she added, “the posted speed limit could be reduced as well (as allowed by the California Vehicle Code) further promoting a safe neighborhood corridor.”
Additional work included striping improvements for pedestrian enhancements to the crosswalk on Augusta Street and Sinsheimer Elementary, buffered bike lanes on Southwood Drive and shared lane markings on Augusta and Victoria streets. The project also included 557,879 square feet of sealing neighborhood streets, Rice said.
Only minor improvements remain, including replacing some signage, city officials said.
In June, the City Council approved the $2.5 million Laurel Lane Complete Streets and Roadway Maintenance Sealing project, with major funding coming from the Local Revenue Measure (Measure G).
The Laurel Lane project drew criticism from mayoral candidate T. Keith Gurnee, who believes the City Council should have allocated at least some of the money to dredging Laguna Lake instead. The council reallocated about $200,000 from its Laguna Lake dredging funding pot to spend on the Laurel Lane project.
But Mayor Heidi Harmon, who’s running for re-election, has defended the project. She identified multimodal transportation — including bicycling and walking — as a major city goal to help reduce vehicle traffic and carbon emissions from cars in alignment with the council’s 2035 working target for carbon neutrality, an overall goal to achieve a zero carbon footprint.