The Pleasanton City Council unanimously approved a quick-build pilot project last week that will create a protected bike lane on West Las Positas Boulevard between Hopyard Road and Hacienda Drive.
Crews will begin work on painting the streets and installing plastic bollards -- which are those short, vertical colored posts -- to create the protected bike lanes and protected intersections along that strip of road in front of Hart Middle School.
It will primarily serve as a Phase 1 pilot design so that city staff could assess its functionality before coming back to the council with a more complete phasing plan for improving pedestrian and bike mobility on West Las Positas Boulevard as well as the complete reconstruction of the thoroughfare.
"March of next year, we (will) put in the paint and plastic between Hopyard Road and Hacienda Drive ... to delineate the bike lanes," Mike Tassano, traffic engineer and community development deputy director, told the council last Tuesday.
"That would stay in place until we go to construction and when we do the reconstruction, that would be ripped out along with the asphalt, and then the permanent reconstruction will be put back in with the permanent bike improvements, which would either be the elevated bike lane or the separated bike lane by curb," he added.
The quick build project -- which is going to cost an estimated $155,000 in construction costs -- was a relatively smaller point of focus during Tuesday's meeting where the council also approved the West Las Positas Boulevard Bicycle and Pedestrian Corridor Improvement Plan.
The improvement plan was adopted by the city in 2018 to make the city more pedestrian- and bicycle-friendly to construct infrastructure that can be used by the entire population.
It specifically identified the West Las Positas Boulevard corridor between Foothill Road and Fairlands Drive as the highest priority corridor for pedestrian and bicycle improvements.
That plan had first stemmed from some of the 2018 updates included in the Bicycle and Pedestrian Master Plan, which was adopted in 2010, where staff first highlighted West Las Positas Boulevard as a top priority due to the high amount of pedestrian and bicycle collisions with traffic.
It was also prioritized due to safety concerns with the amount of schools on that road, wanting to connect the east and west sides of the city and the feasibility of being able to reduce the amount of lanes from six to four on both sides of the street.
"I follow all the strict laws but I also work with kids who I ride their bikes with them to and from school and I pick up kids sometimes with their bikes because they don't feel safe getting to and from school because it's too chaotic of traffic," Pleasanton resident Amy Wolfish said during public comments. "It's not even about flat (surfaces) or not wearing protective equipment. It's just the feeling of not feeling safe enough to bike without being in a car and protective bike lanes."
When staff first started working on the West Las Positas corridor plan in 2018, they were met with the need to design way more alternatives than they first thought. They were also stalled because of the pandemic.
"This took our nine-month plan into an 18-month plan and so we were actually done with the plan in December of 2019," Tassano said. "(It) had been scheduled to come to the City Council before you in early 2020; we were actually the one of the first canceled projects because of the pandemic."
But now that the council voted to approve the corridor improvement plan, staff will be working on developing a six-phase approach to design the West Las Positas multimodal reconstruction project.
The first phase quick build will allow for faster implementation of improvements and will demonstrate the effectiveness of the design before permanent construction changes are made to the roadway.
In 2021, staff ended up combining the West Las Positas bike and pedestrian project with the reconstruction project so that by Phase 6, the city can reconstruct the entire roadway with concrete.
"These first five phases are all paint and plastic where possible, and then concrete if the paint and plastic didn't work," Tassano said. "Phase 2 is from Hacienda to the Iron Horse Trail, Phase 3 from Hopyard Road to Foothill Road, Phase 4 would be the Iron Horse Trail to Fairlands Drive. Phase 5 would be intersections and then we envisioned Phase 6 to upgrade to concrete."
As for how the bike lanes will look throughout the corridor, one of the temporary alternatives that staff settled on was a separated bike lane one way in each direction. The reason it would be temporary is because again the city plans to reconstruct the entire roadway in the future and with that, staff have contemplated seeking design consultation on creating an elevated bike lane.
The elevated bike lane would be on the sidewalk, but would need to be decided by council after drainage and street sweeping issues are first assessed.
"Essentially what we need to do is take off that top layer of asphalt and dig down about five feet, take all of that soil and subgrade rock, mix it with an additive that stabilizes the soil, put it all back, and then put the asphalt back down on top," Tassano said. "We have an opportunity to maybe not necessarily dig all of it out, we could put a concrete surface further out … and then we won't have to dig down the five feet, the full length, which allows us to maybe have some cost savings included in there."
Mayor Karla Brown at first had some concerns about the safety of having a bike path alongside pedestrians on the sidewalk, saying she was worried about the safety of young children who might dash in front of a cyclist.
But longtime resident Andre Pegeron, who grew up riding his bike to his local pool during his childhood summers, disagreed.
"The confrontations on that shared bike walking path, they can be scary, but they involve at worst scrapes, bruises, maybe a broken bone here and there," Pegeron said. "When I'm riding my bike, and I don't have a dedicated facility, the worst case scenario is quite literally, that I die. I would much rather be mindful up on the sidewalk and have a few close brushes with neighbors, than risk losing any one of our Pleasanton neighbors."
Funding for the entire reconstruction of the corridor is still up in the air, as staff explained that there is roughly $7 million right now that is earmarked for bicycle related funding and for road reconstruction.
The total estimated cost for the reconstruction project is currently at $10 million, staff said.
Now that council has approved the first quick-build phase, staff will be advertising the construction contract and will aim to bring that back to council by January or February, Tassano said.
After they award the contract and get the quick build project hopefully done by March, staff plan to bring back 35% of the design plans for the entire reconstruction project back to council next June -- that discussion will include either moving forward with the phasing of the whole project or tackling it all in one go.
Staff's goal is to complete the entire design of the reconstruction by June 2024 so that they can have a complete reconstruction done by 2025, if money wasn't an object.
"That's why we want to bring back in June the 35% plans because we're not we're not confident that we know the exact amount," Tassano said. "At 35%, we should be able to have a comfort level with the construction costs to be able to provide you with a phasing plan that is inclusive of the reconstruction as well as the pedestrian-bicycle elements."
Some of the comments from council, which led to a few additions and changes to the plan, was that there needs to be more analysis on the possibility of adding a crosswalk on the north side of the West Las Positas Boulevard and Santa Rita Road.
Tassano explained that the main issue with this intersection is what the city calls levels of service, which basically refers to the time cars have to wait before their go light turns green.
Intersections have certain levels of service guidelines set by the city which regulates traffic in such a way that accounts for that time to help determine where crosswalks can be added without affecting those guidelines.
Tassano said that adding a crosswalk on the north side of the intersection at West Las Positas and Santa Rita is possible, but if traffic in that area returns to pre-pandemic levels, it would not meet the guidelines for level of service.
But now with the council's request, Tassano and staff will go back and further evaluate the possibility of adding that crosswalk that council say is a big issue with residents.
They will also be looking at the possibility of starting work on that intersection, which is part of the fourth phase of the reconstruction project, much earlier after hearing residents and the council ask about prioritizing that over the other phases.
The most bicycle and pedestrian collisions occur between Iron Horse Trail and Fairlands Drive and the Santa Rita intersection has 40% higher volumes of bicyclists and pedestrians than the next most used intersection at Willow," resident Sharon Piekarski said. "Despite this, the plan shows this segment to be the last section to be addressed."
Most of the dais also had issues with the proposed parking on the south side of the quick build project so that businesses, who apparently emailed staff, don't have to worry about parents using their parking lots to drop off their children.
"I really did question the parking on the southside of West Las Positas," Councilmember Jack Balch said. "I think it constrains the bike lane and the entire premise of the quick build is to improve bike (and pedestrian) safety. So if we're improving (bicycle and pedestrian) safety by putting in parking and constraining the bike lane, I think it's contradictory."
Following the council's recommendation, staff will move forward without adding the parking spots in the quick-build design.
"Parallel parking on Main Street backs up folks," Brown said. "Having to move forward and then back into a parking space on West Las Positas does not make sense on a 45 mile an hour road to me."
The final amendment that Councilmember Kathy Narum pushed for was for staff to do some outreach with the Fairlands Elementary School and the surrounding neighbors so that the city can look to improve that area's bike lanes.