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After nearly a decade, Masonic Avenue streetscape project finally set to break ground

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When safety changes were first pitched for the infamously treacherous Masonic Avenue in 2008, Katy Perry’s “I Kissed a Girl” topped billboard charts and the first film in the Batman trilogy, “The Dark Knight,” swooped into theaters.

Perry has since released more than seven albums, and Ben Affleck has replaced Christian Bale as Batman, but the San Francisco Municipal Transportation Agency hasn’t taken the next steps in improving Masonic Avenue.

That will change this summer.

The SFMTA is scheduled to break ground on the $18.2 million Masonic Streetscape Improvement Project next month, after more than eight years of outreach and four years after the project was approved.

The project will reshape Masonic Avenue between Geary Boulevard and Fell Street, a stretch identified among the The City’s “most dangerous” roadways.

A lane of traffic each way, which operates only during peak commute hours, will be eliminated, as will 167 parking spaces. This will pave the way for wider, safer sidewalks, as well as a raised green cycleway in each direction and a center median with trees.

The idea is to make Masonic Avenue safer to pedestrians, bicyclists and drivers, said Patrick Golier, a senior SFMTA planner.

“Masonic is a mini-freeway,” he said Tuesday. “It has a dismal safety record.”

A new public plaza with art influenced by the community will be created by local artist Scott Oliver at Geary Boulevard and Masonic Avenue.

While nearly 50 trees will be removed for the project, 185 trees will also be planted, according to the SFMTA. During construction of the project, Public Works also plans to replace old water pipes and some sewer pipes dating back to 1840.

Michael Helquist, who wrote the blog BIKE NOPA and who lives a block away from Masonic Avenue, said his neighbors sometimes opt to drive distances as short as three blocks so they don’t have to cross the busy roadway by foot.

As many as 1,000 pedestrians cross Masonic Avenue during peak travel time, and 30,000 vehicles travel per day on the roadway, according to the SFMTA. Planners say this is a dangerous recipe, because there were as many as 113 traffic collisions on the corridor between 2009 and 2014.

Those collisions resulted in two fatalities.

In 2010, 22-year-old German tourist Nils Linke was killed while cycling along Masonic Avenue.

And in 2011, 61-year old James Hudson, of San Francisco, was fatally struck by a vehicle as he walked across the street.

Based on past similar projects, Golier said he expects the amount of cyclists to jump as much as 400 percent after the corridor is made safer.

The final community meeting for the project is slated for 5:30 p.m. today at San Francisco Day School.

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  • S.

    Stopped using this stretch of Masonic years ago, when a guy coming down the hill on the wrong side of the road nearly killed me.

  • Ragazzu

    Copyeditor: let’s cut the first 3 grafs.