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Resident envisions facelift for downtown streets

By: Carol Feineman, Editor
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Pete Santina wants to bring more residents and out-of-towners downtown to shop. To accomplish this goal, he suggests turning F and G streets into one-way streets. “To identify historical downtown as a destination to shop, we have to have something more than the strip mall effect, which is all through the United States. Lincoln is a perfect example of where a town grew up along the railroads,” Santina said. “You want an area where you can walk two blocks to another shop, off the main highway. You expand the commercial area where you put on art shows, have vendors, places people can meet and greet.” Santina said this idea, in which vehicular parking areas surround retail stores, works. The Lincoln resident was Walnut Creek’s city engineer in 1968 to 1974 and other Bay Area cities that turned quiet downtowns into shopping destinations. While Walnut Creek’s downtown area was 10 times larger than Lincoln’s during the 1968 revamping, according to Santina, the concept holds true for Lincoln. “You define retail by roadways. People drive cars. I personally think the salvation of this community is in the historical downtown Lincoln’s retail growth,” Santina said. “Ten thousand people on the hill would love to go shopping down there if it was accessible and safe with no trucks. They’re grandmas and grandpas like me. Why go to Roseville? Why not come down here? The benefit is more sales tax and more cops and more firemen.” Santina is referring to the city of Lincoln’s Gruen Gruen + Associates 2010 study “to identify strategic marketing, planning and policy-related actions that build upon and enhance the downtown’s strengths, given the anticipated completion of the Highway 65 bypass.” The long-awaited bypass will open next summer, according to recent Caltrans statements. The Gruen Gruen report found downtown’s primary disadvantage was “the high speed, through traffic, especially truck traffic, including lumber aggregate trucks, associated with Highway 65 ...” The bypass should divert a third to half of the cars traveling through Highway 65’s downtown portion, according to Lincoln’s public-services director Mark Miller. Daily average traffic on G Street, in 2004/2005, was about 37,500 vehicles, according to a city study. As the Lincoln area population has increased, the number of vehicles has also most likely increased. As part of the bypass project, $588,807 from the state of California’s CMAQ grant funds were given to the city to make G Street, renamed Lincoln Boulevard by City Council several years ago, “an even greater destination for the whole community and beyond Lincoln,” Miller said. Those funds, Miller said, are being used to shorten the traffic signal timing along G Street; and to add new signage about parks, parking areas and historical buildings; striping on the streets; and landscaping. When Santina heard a few weeks ago that the city was applying for $10 million in federal grant money to expand on the Lincoln Boulevard project, he wanted officials to consider turning G and F streets one way from First to Seventh streets. G runs north to south and F south to north, in Santina’s suggestion. “The fiscal sustainability committee ought to consider it,” Santina said. “Anyone who wants to improve Lincoln’s sales tax revenue should consider it.” Santina said he talked to and left messages for Miller and talked to three of the five council members. So far, he and Miller are playing phone tag and the councilmen were not receptive to including the one-way street idea in the application, according to Santina. The application was general based and not specific about traffic changes, according to Miller. “The city would be glad to talk to Mr. Santina about his proposal and bring our engineers in to the discussion,” Miller said. Miller cited a disadvantage and also an advantage of changing F and G to one-way streets. “One-way streets tend to make for faster vehicle speeds, which is not necessarily pedestrian-friendly,” Miller said. “But one-way streets do move a lot of traffic so that is an advantage.” Santina hopes the public will consider the one-way street idea and then voice their opinions at City Council meetings or through letters to the editor. “My suggestion is, if you guys think ahead and accept the Gruen Gruen report that says to calm traffic down and make downtown Lincoln a destination area and not a strip mall, then make it so people want to walk there and drive their NEVS and bikes and Dial a Ride,” Santina said. “Get rid of the trucks. Make the streets more user-friendly with diagonal parking as mentioned in the Gruen Gruen report.”