Redesign of Masonic Avenue up for key approval on Tuesday

Courtesy RenderingDown the road: The Masonic Avenue overhaul is projected to cost $18 million and take about four to five years to complete.

A plan to completely remake Masonic Avenue — a busy artery with a history of high-profile traffic accidents — could be approved Tuesday.

In the works for several years, the proposal would replace two traffic lanes with 1.2 miles of separated bike paths, add a center median with new trees and install sidewalk extensions to better accommodate transit vehicles and pedestrians. The changes will affect on Masonic between Geary Boulevard and Fell Street.

The new layout, called a boulevard design, has been backed by residents in the North of Panhandle neighborhood and will be up for approval by the San Francisco Municipal Transportation Agency’s board of directors.

“Masonic has always been a street in need of beautification and traffic control,” said Leela Gill, a member of the North of Panhandle Neighborhood Association. “The boulevard design is what the neighborhood wants to address these issues. We’re very anxious to see these improvements in place.”

The boulevard design has been approved on the committee level, and if authorized by the SFMTA board Tuesday, the agency will be able to seek funding sources for the $18 million project. So far, only $1 million has been identified, but the SFMTA is hopeful the remaining funds could come from regional grant sources. Once funding is identified, construction is expected to take four to five years.

“This project is a complete streets project that will improve one of The City’s main arterials for all road users,” said SFMTA spokesman Paul Rose.

In the past two years, two people have been killed on Masonic Avenue, including Nils Linke, a German tourist who was fatally struck by a drunken driver while cycling. Between 2004 and 2009, before traffic-calming measures were implemented, there were 116 collisions resulting in 131 injuries on Masonic.

Rob Anderson, a local resident who successfully sued to delay implementation of The City’s bike plan, called the redesign of Masonic a “mistake.”

“They want to spend $18 million on the hope that people will get out of their wicked motor vehicles and ride bikes,” Anderson said. “But they have absolutely no proof that will happen.”

Despite the removal of two traffic lanes during peak travel times, the SFMTA projects that the new design will only add one minute to car trips along the corridor.

“Fundamentally, this is a project about improving safety conditions,” said Michael Helquist, a resident who has been a longtime advocate of the plan. “And when this is finished, the street will be a better place to live on.”

wreisman@sfexaminer.com

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