Yesterday the City Council approved the Foster Streetscape Plan, greenlighting $5.25 million in pedestrian safety improvements for Foster Road between 50th and 90th Avenues.
The unanimous vote comes after more than a decade of activism by neighborhood leaders and small business people seeking to make Foster Road safer for pedestrians, bicyclists and transit users.
The most controversial element of the plan is the “road diet” that would shrink the street’s profile for 24 blocks of the 40 block project area. The current configuration has two travel lanes in each direction. Once completed, the new profile would have a single travel lane in each direction, plus a center turn lane. The additional space would also allow bike lanes in both directions.
Other elements of the plan include a significant investment in widening the narrow sidewalks in Lents, better crossings, additional street trees and improved lighting for the area.
More than 80 citizens attended the hearing, representing neighborhood and business associations, advocacy groups and regular citizens. Among the comments were several who spoke in opposition, with most of them citing the additional travel time for auto commuters. City engineers project that in 30 years, the “road diet” configuration would cause 1 minute of additional travel time for motorists driving the length of the project area during rush hour.
Still, the clear majority of speakers urged the Council to support the plan, with many citing the broad support among the public, expressed at five public open houses, dozens of meetings, written comments and online surveys. Commissioner Amanda Fritz acknowledged the public advocacy that crated the plan, saying that “we’re here today because the public has demanded it.”
In casting his Yes vote, Mayor Charlie Hales praised the plan for recognizing the importance of human-scale interaction in the life of a community. He quoted the author and architectural critic Lewis Mumford, who urged city planners to “forget the damned motor car and build the cities for lovers and friends.”