DDA selects sharrows over bike lanes

June 3, 2011
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Business owners along a southwest block of Grandville Avenue got their wish last week regarding the street’s reconstruction project, which will run from Weston to Oakes streets.

The Grand Woods Lounge, Bistro Bella Vita and Advantage Sales & Marketing wanted the project to maintain 32 on-street parking spaces and not have a bike lane designed into the work, which would have erased six of those spaces.

“We like No. 1. We don’t think No. 2 is a compromise,” said Gary Becker of Advantage Sales & Marketing of the two reconstruction options the Grand Rapids Downtown Development Authority had to choose from at a special board meeting held specifically for the project last week.

Becker, whose office is at 56 Grandville Ave. SW, also said the city’s plan to add bike lanes along the street from Oakes to Wealthy was a fine idea. But he added it wasn’t worth trading the six customer parking spaces for the 10 feet of space the lanes would take up on the lightly traveled, brick-layered block his office occupies.

DDA members agreed and left the spaces in place, but only after they deadlocked at 3-to-3 on their vote for the second option that would have cost the block the parking spaces. “There is a bigger business use coming in that block and now we’re pulling parking away,” said DDA member Jim Talen before the vote.

The renovation work will follow the design that was submitted to the DDA at its May meeting, which keeps angled parking on the west side and 32 spaces on the street. A vote on it then was tabled because Mayor George Heartwell felt that a 5-foot lane on both sides of the block should be installed for bicycles, which would have cost the block the six parking spaces and would have removed the angled spaces.

Instead of bike lanes, the redesigned block will feature sharrows on both sides. A sharrow is a shared lane marking that shows where bicyclists should ride and alerts drivers that they are sharing the lane with bike riders. The city has a sharrow on Cherry Street near Lake Drive on the southeast side.

“I think it’s imperative that this project goes ahead,” said the mayor of the block’s reconstruction, which has been on the DDA’s priority list for the past few years. Heartwell supported the first option after the deadlock vote on the second. “Most times on most days, this is pretty lightly traveled, except around Oakes Street at 5 p.m.,” said DDA Executive Director Jay Fowler of the block that dead-ends at Weston.

The reconstruction will cost about $1.26 million, with the DDA’s share coming to $950,000. Rick DeVries of the city’s engineering department said work should start by next week and be finished by Labor Day. Wyoming Excavators will manage the project. OCBA & Associates designed it and Williams & Works did the surveying. The project will reduce the block’s width from 60 to 57 feet, but will install new bricks for the street, new sidewalks, utilities and landscaping.

At the same meeting, the DDA agreed to restripe Grandville from Oakes south to Wealthy Street for bike lanes. The move is part of the city’s desire to create a network of bike lanes that would run south from downtown to Chicago Drive in Wyoming.

“There is some additional cost involved, but it’s not a significant amount — about $10,000 to $15,000,” said Fowler of the three-block restriping project.

A third design option wasn’t considered by the board. It would have eliminated all but one of the center-turn lanes from Weston to Wealthy and would have cost the Grandville block 10 parking spaces.

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