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Breed moves to speed up work on two South of Market street safety projects

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Pedestrians cross at Sixth and Minna streets on Tuesday, Oct. 9, 2018. (Kevin N. Hume/S.F. Examiner)

Mayor London Breed is telling The City’s transportation agency to hurry up on two major streetscape projects.

A long-awaited bike lane on Townsend Street near Caltrain and the controversial Sixth Street Pedestrian Safety Project will be expedited at the Breed’s direction, The Mayor’s Office told the San Francisco Examiner on Wednesday.

“I have been personally reviewing Vision Zero projects on our high-injury corridors to determine which projects can be implemented more quickly, because we cannot wait any longer to ensure the safety of pedestrians and bicyclists on our streets,” Breed said in a statement.

The Sixth Street safety project, which is tentatively set to be voted on by the San Francisco Municipal Transportation Agency Board of Directors next week, calls for the removal of one southbound driving lane on Sixth Street to pave the way for pedestrian improvements, the widening of sidewalks on Sixth Street from Market to Howard streets, and the installation of pedestrian-level light poles and other safety measures, including new crosswalks.

With Breed’s backing, the project could move ahead as much as a year faster than already planned.

The need is dire, argues SFMTA: The corridor has one of the highest concentrations of pedestrian collisions, injuries and fatalities in San Francisco, according to public data.

But the project is opposed by the Chamber of Commerce and Hotel Council of San Francisco, who argue that the removal of a southbound driving traffic lane on Sixth Street will increase gridlock in an already congested part of The City.

“We’re looking at what’s happening north of Market going south. It’s already backed up unbelievably,” said Kevin Carroll, executive director of the Hotel Council. “That’s with two lanes there. To take this down to one lane will make this even more unbelievable.”

Jim Lazarus, senior vice president of public policy with the Chamber of Commerce, said business interests don’t want SFMTA to correct downtown streets in a piecemeal manner. They want a comprehensive plan, which has not been forthcoming.

“I think what we’ve asked for, and this has been going on a number of years, is a traffic plan to move buses trucks and cars around that whole South of Market area,” he said. “The problem is there is no overall plan on how traffic is supposed to move.”

However the San Francisco Bicycle Coalition and pedestrian advocacy group Walk San Francisco hailed Breed’s move to push the projects through more quickly in ligth of recent traffic deaths on city streets.

Brian Wiedenmeier, executive director of the bike coalition, said he was “thrilled” to hear Breed’s proposal to expedite Townsend Street improvements. “It’s not safe, the pavement is terrible, it should’ve been paved a long time ago.”

SEE RELATED: Townsend corridor bicycle safety measures to be constructed

Walk SF Executive Director Jodie Medeiros said “There is no time to waste.” She said both projects are major capital projects “that will take some time to build.”

The bike lane on Townsend Street between Fourth and Eighth streets has been frequently requested by cyclists, who are forced to traverse the craggy, poorly-paved stretch of concrete. At Breed’s prompting, SFMTA will start construction of the major sidewalk improvements and bike lane in January, months earlier than anticipated.

joe@sfexaminer.com

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