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Big Market plan takes tiny step

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When the Better Market Street project was first formulated, backers of the plan touted the potential of a once-in-a-generation chance to remake The City's central boulevard. Market Street was scheduled to be repaved in 2015, giving city planners the first opportunity in 30 years to address major transportation needs on the street.

But when the Market Street repaving process begins Friday, it will be without the coinciding upgrades — such as options for fully separated bike paths, dedicated transit lanes and more protection for pedestrians.

“I know the original intent was to incorporate the plan into the repaving work,” said Rachel Gordon, spokeswoman for the Department of Public Works, one of the city agencies involved in the project. “We're still seeing through the Better Market Street plan, but we realize now that it's going to have to be a very thoughtful process that will probably take a while to develop.”

Gordon said the department has $700,000 in funding available now for the street repaving work through gas-tax revenue. At 7 p.m. Friday, crews will repave the outer curb lanes of Market Street from Van Ness Avenue to Sixth Street. Gordon said the work was needed to address the growing number of potholes on Market Street.

The undertaking will be completed within 24 hours, but cars, trucks and bikes — everything but public-transit vehicles — will be banned from that segment of the street during the work. The curb lanes of Market Street between Steuart and Third streets will be repaved June 21-22, and the segment between Third and Sixth streets will be repaved some time in July.

This weekend's work was scheduled to have the lowest impact on residents and local businesses, Gordon said.

Supervisor Scott Wiener, a critic of the slow pace of the Better Market Street project, said he supports the decision to repave the curb lanes of the artery despite the lack of corresponding improvements with the work.

“We can't be paralyzed by the process,” said Wiener, who noted that funding for the $250 million for the Better Market Street project is still largely unsecured. “In an ideal world, all of these plans would be in place in time for the repaving. But it's become clear that these projects are still years away, so we can't just sit back and do nothing while we wait for them to develop.”

Leah Shahum, head of the San Francisco Bicycle Coalition, said repaving Market Street could not come soon enough for cyclists. However, she added that simply repaving the street would not suffice.

“We will continue to advocate, to make sure that The City has its eyes on the prize for a truly better Market Street,” Shahum said.

Tom Radulovich, executive director of Livable City, an urban planning organization, said it was fine for The City to think incrementally as long as it maintains a strategic goal.

“It's pretty clear that we're going to have to live with this iteration of Market Street for a while,” Radulovich said. “This is the time to test out new ideas to improve it.”

Gordon said the center lanes of Market Street will be repaved in the future, although that project will be much more labor-intensive since it involves rerouting Muni vehicles. As of now, the full implementation of the Better Market Street project is scheduled to begin in 2017 and wrap up in 2019.

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