Remedies proposed to decongest Hayes Valley 

click to enlarge The intersection of Market and Octavia streets has been the site of where many accidents have occurred. - S.F. EXAMINER FILE PHOTO
  • S.F. Examiner File Photo
  • The intersection of Market and Octavia streets has been the site of where many accidents have occurred.

A boulevard and open spaces that replaced the elevated Central Freeway have been credited with revitalizing Hayes Valley, but a key intersection there is still plagued by pedestrian safety issues and heavy traffic congestion.

To help improve those conditions, congestion pricing for motorists, new bike lanes on Polk Street, more crosswalks and the implementation of two-way transit routes on local roads are some of the plans being recommended.

The Central Freeway was torn down in 1992 after being damaged in the 1989 Loma Prieta earthquake, and it was replaced by a boulevard in 2005. For the past several years, the San Francisco County Transportation Authority, a local planning agency, has been studying ways to improve the Market and Octavia streets intersection and nearby streets. A new report recommends adding crosswalks on thoroughfares such as Franklin and Gough streets to improve pedestrian safety. It also said a two-way bike lane on the south end of Polk Street would better connect The City’s cycling network. And there are recommendations for traffic-calming measures and transit improvement plans on Page and Haight streets.

A major component of the plan calls for some sort of traffic management program, such as congestion pricing, which would charge motorists a fee for driving in certain parts of The City.

Most of the proposals in the plan could be implemented for $100,000 to $5 million. The City has several new local and regional funding sources — including the recently passed $248 million streets bond — that could pay for the improvements, said Jesse Koehler, a planner with the transit authority.

Koehler said the study is important because it coincides with two separate projects that are already under way: the Van Ness Avenue bus rapid transit network and the Better Market Street plan. The Van Ness project would carry heavy-duty vehicles down dedicated transit lanes, and the Market Street plan calls for a complete overhaul of The City’s main artery. Koehler said recommendations from the study could impact how both those projects move forward.

Elizabeth Stampe, executive director of pedestrian advocates Walk SF, said the plan could go a long way toward improving safety in the neighborhood.

“In a way, we’re still removing the freeway from Hayes Valley,” Stampe said. “There are still too many spots where it still doesn’t feel safe or pleasant to walk.”

Kit Hodges, deputy director of the San Francisco Bicycle Coalition, said the Market-Octavia intersection could use safety and connectivity improvements for cyclists.

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Will Reisman

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