By LORI A. CARTER
THE PRESS DEMOCRAT
Neighbors in the East D Street area were surprised to see a final-sounding item for the next Petaluma City Council agenda: a resolution to “approve of the final project design and authorizing construction” of a pilot bicycle boulevard project.
In the only public meeting on the matter, in October, the vast majority of 60 people in attendance raised objections to the plan to replace stop signs with yield signs and traffic circles at three intersections on a quarter-mile section of East D Street between Payran and Wilson streets.
“The neighborhood has never had public notice to come in and have their opinions carry any weight,” resident Dale Axelrod told council members Monday night. “This process is not transparent.”
Wilson Street resident Dave Libchitz noted that no one outside of staff, not even the council, has apparently seen a final design.
“Who came up with the final design? It couldn’t have been the City Council,” he said. “The public certainly has not had the opportunity to weigh in on the final project.”
He urged the council to step back and seek public input.
The Petaluma proposal, which is similar to Santa Rosa’s interim bicycle boulevard project, would make bike-friendly changes that include removing stop signs, narrowing intersections and installing yield signs and traffic circles.
And like Santa Rosa’s Humboldt Street, the East D Street proposal has been a lightning rod for controversy since its inception.
Santa Rosa’s 1.5-mile pilot project, which is estimated to cost $800,000 at completion, is in jeopardy given the makeup of the incoming, less bike-friendly Santa Rosa City Council.
Petaluma received a $50,000 air-quality grant to make bike-friendly changes to East D Street and has so far spent about $10,000 on the planning.
Concerns about Petaluma’s project include pedestrian safety and whether replacing stop signs with yields would help or hinder traffic flow as cars and bicycles try to share the road.
Some residents have said another street would be more appropriate, given the mix of homes and businesses on East D Street.
After hearing the concerns of Axelrod and Libchitz, Mayor Pam Torliatt directed city staff to schedule a neighborhood meeting before the Dec. 20 meeting to show them exactly how the traffic circles would work and look.
The council meeting agenda wording also was changed to assure an open public discussion.
“I’m just one person in the neighborhood that feels that this is really going to be unsafe to remove the stop signs from these intersections,” Axelrod said, warning the council to expect a large crowd at the meeting.
“Traffic circles are fine — keep the stop signs,” he said.