Emerald Street east of Orchard Street is auto-centric, with little to no room for pedestrians or bicyclists. Two vehicle lanes head in each direction, with no bicycle lanes and only a smattering of sidewalk.
The Ada County Highway District is designing buffered bicycle lanes and will build sidewalks on both sides of the street on Emerald and Americana Boulevard for the full 1.5 miles between Orchard and Ann Morrison Park.
“This just makes a nice corridor that is a complete street,” said Bob Beckman, senior traffic engineer at CH2M, the design consultant on the Emerald-American project. “Now you see people getting off the sidewalk (when it abruptly ends) to walk on the street because there is no sidewalk.”
The estimated $1.5 million project will also reduce vehicle traffic to one lane in each direction and add a center turn lane. The project will bring new traffic signals at Roosevelt, Garden and Latah with upgraded vehicle detection systems to allow ACHD to better coordinate the lights, Beckman said.
“We think the level of service for vehicles should not change,” Beckman said.
Emerald Street has a capacity for 20,000 vehicles per day but only about 11,000 vehicles a day run on that stretch, Beckman said.
ACHD had an open house Jan. 7 to provide updated details on the project, which is expected to start construction in 2017. ACHD expects to begin right-of-way acquisitions this spring.
The ACHD Commission adopted the project concept on March 25.
The project would install 3,700 feet of new sidewalk, nearly three-quarters of a mile, mostly between Roosevelt and Garden streets.
The bike lanes on Emerald-Americana would mostly be 5 feet wide with 2-to-3-foot painted buffer zones, ACHD spokesman Craig Quintana said. Beckman added that a few sections will be 6 feet wide with no buffer.
These bike lanes would give the Central Bench its second east-west bike lanes along with Kootenai Street. The Treasure Valley Cycling Alliance bicycle counts from 2010 to 2014 calculated 60 to 100 bike rides on the Americana stretch and 30 to 40 on Emerald over a two-hour period.
“It’s acknowledging a bicycling connection that is already there but making it safer,” Beckman said.