The intersection of Grand Avenue and Airport Boulevard is set for a major overhaul in an effort to increase pedestrian and bicyclist safety, in particular for those traveling between the nearby Caltrain station and the city’s adjacent downtown.
The remodel will add bike lanes, widen sidewalks, make crosswalk improvements and remove a separated turning lane, in addition to adding planting to medians and other landscaping. The intersection, which is complicated by a highway on-ramp entrance, is a major connection point for those traveling into the city’s downtown from the freeway or the developing area to the east.
“This is an exciting project that’s been a vision of the city for quite a while,” city engineer Matthew Ruble said. “[It] is one of the most busily traveled and important intersections in our city.”
Councilmembers, however, held off on granting a $3.2 million construction contract during their meeting this week amid concern the proposed bike lanes would provide insufficient protection and a question regarding wages paid by the contractor.
“We definitely need a protected bike lane in that area, because if you’re just putting green paint on the side on Airport Boulevard, that doesn’t feel safe for a bike rider,” Mayor Mark Nagales said.
The bike lanes will be unprotected, meaning there will not be plastic posts or other physical dividers separating them from vehicle lanes. Ruble explained the primary focus of the redesign was to improve safety for pedestrians and cyclists traveling along Grand Avenue to or from the Caltrain station, and a larger revamp of Airport Boulevard would come at a later date, likely with protected bike lanes.
“We’re limited by constraints of the roadway until a larger project can come in for a more holistic approach,” he said, pointing to areas where cars would need to cross over the bike lane to make right turns or merge onto the freeway.
Still, councilmembers Eddie Flores and James Coleman questioned if changes could be made to the design ahead of the larger renovations.
“Why are we calling this a bike lane … if we are just coloring it and suggesting this is where bikes should go? I see great liability for potential swerving of vehicles in and out and crisscrossing with cyclists,” Flores said. “I would like to see a different option, if there is one. This is not where we should be.”
Ruble said minor changes could be made to the design without needing to seek new estimates from contractors, something he said would put the project back several months, and increase costs by hundreds of thousands of dollars given rapidly rising construction costs and inflation.
But Public Works Director Eunejune Kim warned that there would likely be little changes able to be made given the layout of Airport Boulevard.
As it was presented, the work would not require the removal of any parking places or reduction in vehicle lanes other than the separated “slip lane” for northbound Airport Boulevard traffic turning right on Grand Avenue.
The council agreed to reexamine the item during a meeting planned for June 8, after which there will also be further information regarding an investigation into the contractor, CF Contracting, concerning wages paid during a project in Sausalito.