Project to slow cars is rolling into action 

Motorists accustomed to putting the pedal to the metal on Cesar Chavez Street will be forced to start tapping their brakes under plans to rebuild the six-lane arterial to make room for pedestrians, cyclists, neighbors and trees.

A handful of city departments have begun design efforts for an ambitious project expected to create a less car-dominant east-west corridor between Guerrero Street and U.S. Highway 101 by mid-2010. The project will follow design guidelines outlined in the draft Better Streets Plan launched by Mayor Gavin Newsom in early June.

The overhauled boulevard will be broken up with traffic calming devices, according to preliminary planning documents. Such devices could include median islands, speed bumps, crosswalks and a series of tight turns called chicanes.

Children will be provided with a safer path across the street to Leonard R. Flynn Elementary School, the documents show. The corridor also will see new trees, bike lanes and a replacement underground sewer.

"[Cesar Chavez Street] is a right of way that’s clearly prioritized for automobile use over the needs of everybody else that needs the street," said city planner Andres Power, who is leading design efforts. "It’s loud, it’s gray and there isn’t any humanity to the street."

The rebuilding project aims to soften the street’s community-dividing effects on the Mission and "make it a part of the neighborhood as opposed to a passageway through it," Power said.

"One of the most important things to do is just make it safer for pedestrians and to make it a place that’s not scary to be on or to cross," Power said.

Some construction of traffic-calming devices is scheduled to begin in August, but most of the construction will begin late next year, when planning efforts and community meetings have finished, the planning documents show.

Roughly $5 million in funding already has been identified from a variety of city, state and federal sources for design and construction work, the documents show.

By the numbers

Average number of cars traveling on Cesar Chavez Street between 5 and 6 p.m. on weekdays.

1,500 Westbound at Mission Street

700 Eastbound at Mission Street

1,400 Westbound at South Van Ness Avenue

800 Eastbound at South Van Ness Avenue

Source: Planning Department

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