Lincoln Boulevard improvements could start next spring

The last day to participate in a survey seeking input on the future Lincoln Boulevard is Friday.
By: Patty McAlpin Lincoln News Messenger Correspondent
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As of last Thursday, more than 600 online surveys at were filled out, according to Gladys Cornell of AIM Consulting. Lincoln Boulevard will encompass the present-day Highway 65 from just south of Sterling Parkway to just north of Seventh Street, according to a city brochure . Caltrans is scheduled to open the Highway 65 Bypass and relinquish the former Highway 65 to the city in summer 2012, according to the city’s web site. Approximately 70 residents attended an Aug. 11 community workshop on the Lincoln Boulevard Improvements Project, presented by the city’s director of public services Mark Miller and project manager Matt Brogan of Mark Thomas & Company Inc. “This is a great turnout,” Miller said. “People seem to be going here and to the Farmers’ Market.” Project design-team members explained architectural drawings that were posted around the meeting room at City Hall and answered questions. Drawings depicted engineering, landscaping and design concepts. ”It’s a good start,” said Lincoln resident Vic Freeman. “I think it’s going to have to be done in stages. It will be a few years before it is finished, I imagine. Introducing landscape and greenery is good. They have to get the golf carts downtown.” The first construction phase, set to occur from spring 2013 to spring 2014, will include construction from Fourth to Seventh streets along G Street (Lincoln Boulevard) with additional operational improvements such as signal timing throughout Lincoln Boulevard, according to the city. “$2.5 to $3 million is not enough to do everything on the boards,” Brogan said. “As more money comes in, we will extend.” State and federal funding is set aside for this project, according to Miller, and cannot be diverted to the General Fund. Miller was referring to comments he heard from the public about improving G Street versus laying off firefighters. The General Fund provides money for public-safety services. Miller hopes the improvements “will be a catalyst” to generate more income and support city services. Some community members asked about changes to parking and its effects on businesses located on G Street and the side streets. Brogan said the current design will give the city a net increase of 55 spaces but could vary slightly. There are 145 spaces now, with 94 on G Street and 51 on side streets, Brogan said. Fifty-five spaces are being proposed along Lincoln Boulevard, 125 spaces on side streets plus another 20 spaces for Neighborhood Electric Vehicles (NEV). “There are tradeoffs,” Brogan said, when asked if input from businesses had been sought. “Parking is important to businesses. We are not completely eliminating parking spaces. There is just a strategic reduction. Businesses will still be accessible, using side streets.” Miller said the city understands that “no business owner wants spots removed. “Most are saying if the improvements are more pedestrian friendly and customers shop more than one store,” Miller said, “they’d like to have landscaping.” Miller said the proposal also includes plans for better signage to parking and talking to the chamber of commerce about kiosks with maps directing shoppers to stores. Once the Highway 65 Bypass opens, Brogan said, downtown traffic will drop significantly, by about half on opening day. Average daily traffic on Highway 65 for 2004/2005 is at about 37,500 vehicles, according to a city study. “This means an opportunity to focus on all modes of traffic,” Brogan said. An audience member asked if there is a long-term plan to make Lincoln a destination. “Is there any plan that foresees including night life, a theater?” he asked. “What about the timing of the traffic lights? There’s a lot of scuzzy-looking businesses along Main Street.” Brogan answered that timing will be an “easy fix” once the bypass opens and G Street is no longer a highway. “We’re talking the highest priority in the first phase,” Brogan said. “We are actively talking to Caltrans about expediting (the process) and, in the long term, link timing of the signals and railroad crossings.” Miller said he hopes seeing improvements will encourage businesses. “When the city makes an investment in trees and landscaping, etc., it’ll spur them to do it,” Miller said. “It’s a multiplier effect.”