By Dave Schwab
Making Uptown more friendly for bicyclists and pedestrians is a challenging goal drawing nearer to fruition as the San Diego Association of Governments (SANDAG) heads into final design on the proposed Pershing Bikeway project, with construction expected to begin in late 2018.
The Pershing Bikeway will provide an enhanced 2.6-mile bikeway along Pershing Drive, with dedicated bikeway and pedestrian facilities in North Park, Golden Hill, Downtown and Balboa Park.
The project will include buffered bike lanes, a two-way separated bikeway and an adjacent walking path. The project also features traffic-calming measures to make the roadway safer for both drivers and pedestrians.
In North Park, the 2.6-mile Pershing Bikeway will begin just south of Jefferson Elementary School on Utah Street at the intersection with Landis Street. From there, it will follow Utah Street south to Upas Street, head briefly west along Upas, turning south on Pershing Drive to connect with B and C streets Downtown.
The Pershing Bikeways project will help fulfill the vision laid out in the San Diego Regional Bike Plan, which is to make riding a bike a more convenient and safer choice for everyday travel.
The Pershing project will connect with other planned bikeways, including the Landis segment of the North Park to Mid-City Bikeway, the Imperial Avenue Bikeway, and segments of the city’s Downtown Mobility Plan.
SANDAG, San Diego’s regional transportation planning agency, on Jan. 20 approved an environmental exemption for the Pershing Bikeway project from the California Environmental Quality Act.
“The project just doesn’t have any environmental consequences that rise to the level of being considered impactful,” said Chris Carterette, SANDAG project manager specializing in active transportation. “It doesn’t cause any environmental effects to sensitive habitats or archaeological resources, or make any changes that require some kind of mitigation.”
During the public comment period Dec. 7-19, 2016 on the Pershing Bikeway Project, SANDAG received 68 written and verbal responses from individuals and organizations.
Following are excerpts from local residents who weighed-in:
“It is a critical part of the San Diego bike plan and serves as a vital connection between Downtown and Uptown,” Beth Korkuch said.
“A bike lane from North Park is a good idea, however, the grade of Pershing is not conducive to safe biking,” James Docton said.
“I really support the roundabout at Redwood. This is currently very dangerous with many people running across the street to go to Morley Field,” said North Park resident Kathleen Ferrier, director of advocacy for Circulate San Diego, which promotes active transportation.
“I question your traffic studies,” Stephanie Santos said. “The plan does not take into consideration the uninterrupted flow which will impede use of the Redwood/Pershing roundabout. Florida canyon is a much better option, and more pedestrians and cyclists can avoid the Pershing hill.”
“I strongly support building the project as designed,” said Kevin Wood of the San Diego County Bicycle Coalition. “The current intersection with the freeway is very dangerous.”
SANDAG noted alterations of bike paths for the Pershing project would only occur to existing city streets, curbs, intersections and related facilities with negligible — or no — expansion of existing uses creating new bicycle lanes in existing rights-of-way. The agency concluded that the project would not have any negative impacts on bicycle or pedestrian safety.
SANDAG regional planner Linda Culp addressed public concerns about the Pershing project.
“The overall majority of people at public hearings and workshops were supportive of the project and liked the major elements, including a roundabout and crosswalks being added,” she said.
“There are a few concerns in terms of the road diet plan on portions of Pershing Drive. Some folks are concerned that would be an impediment to accessing I-5. People also want stop signs put in to improve safety for people using the roadway.”
Culp said she is convinced that people will like the final result.
“We (SANDAG) really see this as a complete-streets kind of project, where it’s not just for people on bikes, not just for people walking,” she said. “It’s really to make driving safer. It’s really going to create a park-like corridor that they don’t have there right now.”
“Pershing Drive is actually a (Balboa) Park roadway and their park plan supports the design we’ve developed,” Carterette said, adding the goal is also to make Pershing “a better driving experience that beautifies the corridor and reduces the speeds to make it more pleasant and safe.”
Carterette said that once the plan is implemented, the 50 mph speed limits on Pershing “will likely be reduced to 35 miles per hour in the main section.”
Funding for design, engineering and construction of the Pershing Bikeway is being provided by the regional TransNet half-cent sales tax for transportation administered by SANDAG.
The Pershing project is expected to be ready to advertise for construction in July 2018, with construction expected to begin in December 2018. The bikeway is anticipated to open to the public in July 2020.
Visit KeepSanDiegoMoving.com/PershingBikeway for more information and to follow the project’s timeline.
—Dave Schwab can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Sara is the editor of San Diego Uptown News.