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Safety Improvements Coming to Ortega Street in Outer Sunset

Photo: SFMTA

Safety improvements are coming to Ortega Street in the Outer Sunset to calm the street for students and parents walking and biking to AP Giannini Middle School and Sunset Elementary School, as well as the stretch next to the Sunset Reservoir.

The plan, approved by the SF Municipal Transportation Agency Board of Directors this week, would help calm Ortega with pedestrian islands, bike lanes, speed humps, continental crosswalks, daylighting, and sidewalk bulb-outs. The improvements are actually two projects along different stretches of Ortega: one between 37th and 41st Avenues next to the schools, and one between 24th and 28th Avenues along the reservoir. The bike lanes would run on Ortega from 20th Avenue to the Great Highway, and the eastbound bike lane would be buffered on the few blocks adjacent to the schools, according to the project plans [PDF]. The bike lanes would be striped between parked cars and moving cars and would not be protected.

The changes, which were developed in community meetings over the past year, would narrow the excessively wide roadway -- a characteristic typical of streets in the Sunset -- to help reduce speeding, stop sign running, and pedestrian right-of-way violations by drivers. The improvements are expected to be constructed by the end of the year, though the bike lanes wouldn't go in until summer of 2013, according to the SFMTA website.

"Traffic calming like Ortega's is something neighborhoods all over the city could use, and that many San Francisco residents have asked for," said Walk SF Executive Director Elizabeth Stampe. "It's great to see it come to fruition."

The projects are funded by a Safe Routes to School Grant and Prop K transportation sales tax revenue. The reservoir project originally only included a roundabout at Ortega and 26th Avenue, according to the SFMTA website. Although the SFMTA had funds specifically designated for a roundabout, the idea of installing one on Ortega was dropped in community meetings. Roundabouts can be effective at reducing crashes and calming traffic, but there are few of them in the city. An attempt to implement them along Page Street in 2003 was deemed unsuccessful, as many criticized them as being too small and confusing to drivers. It's unknown if the funds will be used to install a roundabout elsewhere.

Stampe said she'd like to see a broader toolkit used to calm more neighborhood streets that can be safely shared by people walking, biking and driving. She pointed to model traffic calming programs like New York's arterial calming projects and neighborhood slow zones, as well as Portland's neighborhood greenways. "We need two types of traffic calming," she said. "One to tame the high-speed, dangerous arterials, and one to help communities reclaim their streets as safe space to share and enjoy."

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