SFCTA Board Approves Funding For Masonic, Second Street, and More

The Masonic re-design will now be fully funded. Image: SF Planning Department

Federal funding for street redesigns on Masonic Avenue, Second Street, and other improvements was unanimously approved yesterday by the Board of Supervisors, acting as the board of the SF County Transportation Authority.

The projects selected to receive a chunk of the regional One Bay Area grant also include a bike/ped path on Mansell Street in McLaren Park, pedestrian safety improvements on Broadway in Chinatown, and bike and pedestrian upgrades on streets around the Transbay Transit Center. Altogether, $35 million in OBAG funds will go toward projects in SF.

A crash between a car and a fire department truck seen last week, after the car driver reportedly ran a red light. Photo: Michael Helquist

The most anticipated project in the package — and the most contentious — was the overhaul of Masonic, a deadly street which is slated to get raised bike lanes, reduced traffic lanes, a tree-lined median, bus bulb-outs, and other pedestrian safety upgrades. Of the estimated $18 million needed for the project, OBAG will provide $10 million, while the SFMTA is expected to provide the remaining $8 million.

SF Bicycle Coalition Communications Director Kristin Smith wrote in a blog post yesterday:

This is a huge win for safer, more complete San Francisco streets — especially on Masonic Avenue, one of San Francisco’s most deadly streets. In the last five years, 122 people have been injured and two people killed, just on 2/3 of a mile of Masonic. Thanks to today’s funding decision, this deadly corridor will be transformed into a safer place for all road users.

Even though the Masonic project was approved last September after several years of planning and extensive outreach, a few dozen residents at the hearing told the board to reject funding for the plan because it would remove all on-street car parking on Masonic. They claimed that the safety upgrades were actually dangerous, would add congestion, and that they weren’t notified about the planning process. Almost as many speakers who backed the project attested to the long-overdue need to save lives and make the street more accessible to bicycling.

Supervisors — including Eric Mar, Mark Farrell, and London Breed, who penned a joint letter in February urging funding for the project — gave a sympathetic nod to the complainers, but didn’t budge on their commitment to safer streets.

Image: SFBC

“To make the corridor safe is really paramount to any other issue, whether it be Bicycle Coalition, someone’s ability to park, or what have you — safety comes first,” said Supervisor Breed, who was credited with expediting the installation of the Oak Street protected bike lane in May. “Masonic is clearly a dangerous, almost freeway-like corridor in the middle of our community.”

“It’s not that this plan has just come out of nowhere,” said Supervisor Mar, noting the SFMTA’s widely-praised public outreach and the advocacy efforts of the neighborhood group Fix Masonic. “It is a choice, and I choose public safety as the key goal.”

Although Supervisor Farrell vowed to “make this right” — meaning, to minimize the impacts of the safety upgrades on his car-dependent constituents — he said “this project, to me, is about public safety.”

Still, he questioned the extent of outreach by planners: “How we have projects where people across the street don’t know about it still bewilders me.”

Walk SF Executive Director Elizabeth Stampe pointed out that streets where protected bike lanes were added in New York City have seen a 50 percent increase in safety for all street users, on average. “Not all of us are bicycle riders, but all of us are pedestrians,” she said. “We really need to proceed on this project quickly… it’s important to tame the speeding we’ve heard so much about.”

“This project is about ensuring that people have choices,” said David, a Masonic resident who identified himself as a car owner, noting that he and his family members bike and drive to get around the city. “They make their choices because they have choices.”

“This is decades overdue,” he added. “The traffic, pedestrian and bicycle toll tells that story.”

The SFCTA’s package of projects selected for OBAG funding is expected to be approved by the Metropolitan Transportation Commission as part of the broader regional program.

  • gneiss

    This is excellent news. I regularly take the 43 and drive on Masonic with my daughter, but avoid bicycling because there isn’t a safe route near that corridor. And to those who say “Just take Baker” I challenge you to attempt to reach Trader Joe’s or the JCC with a trailer bike using the maze that “Fix Masonic” seems to think is perfectly adequate. There is no reason why people who ride bicycles can’t use the same easy and direct route that cars and buses now enjoy.

    However, just because they have funding doesn’t mean this project will get done in any reasonable amount of time. After all the foot dragging that went on with the changes on Oak and Fell, which required much less effort, it’s anyone’s guess when they will get around to this work.

  • biking in SF

    I think you meant “the maze that ‘Save Masonic’ seems to think is perfectly adequate.” And I agree – that route was/is a joke given how much more hilly it is, the number of turns it entails, and how indirect it is.

  • Mario Tanev

    I think you’re confusing “Fix Masonic” with “Save Masonic”. All the “Save” groups are in opposition of something (e.g. Save Polk, Save Muni, etc.). All the “Fix” groups are for something.

  • Upright Biker

    Fantastic. The more cycle tracks go in, the more people (regular people who are fearful of riding on SF streets now) see good bike infra in action, the more support we’ll have for projects like the 2nd Street improvements.

    Note to Planners: Please make all cycle tracks a nice beige in your renderings, as opposed to the neon green that makes it look like all street improvement projects are about is bike lanes!

  • Peter M

    Did the car in that photo get spun around in the crash, or was someone driving the wrong direction down O’Farrell?

  • gneiss

    Mario & biking in SF – yes, you’re absolutely right – I mean ‘Save Masonic’ not ‘Fix Masonic’. Got the groups mixed up. Thank you.

  • Will the bus bulb cause a right hook problem for bikers traveling northbound on Masonic? Would it be better to have the bus bulb on the far side of the street as shown for the southbound direction?

  • Easy

    Northbound is uphill, so bikes should be going pretty slow, at least.

  • Bob Gunderson

    Save Masonic had it right. We could have fixed Masonic by not changing it at all! http://dearestdistrict5.blogspot.com/2013/06/fix-masonic-yes-by-changing-it-no.html

  • Jerry

    While they’re at it why not make it a proper Dutch-style intersection? https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=FlApbxLz6pA

  • Chris

    The bike lanes on Baker work fine. The maze over the hill through that residential neighborhood would not work. There are bike lanes on Turk so couldn’t you accomplish the connection by just adding bike lanes between Turk and Geary?

    As an avid biker, I am all for more bike lanes but I think this plan is going to create some serious problems. Where is all that traffic going to go to? How about all the cars sitting idling on that street? Taking down the central freeway has definitely had its benefits but Oak/Octavia and Franklin/Gough are parking lots in rush hour and make that neighborhood less than ideal during those times.


A Safer Masonic on the Way

Wednesday evening some 130 local residents and other interested parties dropped in at the San Francisco Day School to learn about the construction phase of SFMTAs Masonic Avenue Streetscape Project. To quote SFMTA’s own release about the project: With construction starting in June 2016, the Masonic Avenue Streetscape Project is an effort to improve safety for […]

Funding Approved for Masonic EIR and Cargo Way Protected Bikeway

The Masonic Avenue Streetscape Project took another step forward today after the board of the San Francisco County Transportation Authority approved funding to conduct an environmental impact report (EIR). The board also gave the green light to funds to construct the city’s first on-street two-way protected bike lane on Cargo Way in Hunter’s Point. The Masonic […]

Planners Refine Ped Upgrades, Protected Bike Lane Designs for Second Street

The developing plan to overhaul Second Street with protected bike lanes and pedestrian safety upgrades took another step forward yesterday when staff from the SF Municipal Transportation Agency, the Department of Public Works, and the Planning Department presented more refined design options to the public. Under the proposal, the entire one-mile length of Second Street would be […]

Plan for a Safer Masonic Gets Final Approval from SFMTA Board

A plan for sweeping safety improvements on deadly Masonic Avenue was unanimously approved by the SF Municipal Transportation Agency Board of Directors yesterday. It’s the final decision needed to move the project forward, though the SFMTA says planners still need to finalize the design and secure funding before it’s implemented. The agency doesn’t have a […]

MTA Mulls Scenarios for Moving Bike Plan Forward

The MTA is considering a number of scenarios for moving the Bicycle Plan forward when the Environmental Impact Report (EIR) is finalized and the bike injunction lifted.  One being discussed is a rare joint meeting of the Planning Commission and MTA Board with an appearance by Mayor Gavin Newsom to certify and adopt the EIR […]