Cyclists ride along the closed Great Highway on Friday, Oct. 2, 2020. (Kevin N. Hume/S.F. Examiner)

Cyclists ride along the closed Great Highway on Friday, Oct. 2, 2020. (Kevin N. Hume/S.F. Examiner)

Supervisors approve $500k for short-term safety, long-term evaluation for Great Highway

San Francisco supervisors acting as the county’s regional transportation authority allocated roughly half a million dollars of sales tax revenue towards projects related to the Great Highway on Tuesday, an effort to improve traffic safety around the temporarily car-free roadway as well as evaluate the future of the iconic stretch of road along Ocean Beach.

Of the nearly $500,000 of allocated funds generated by Proposition K, the vast majority will go toward addressing the reckless driving, congestion and deteriorating street safety reported by neighbors of nearby residential streets since April, when the Upper Great Highway was closed to vehicles to create more space for outdoor recreation and travel during the pandemic.

Supervisor Gordon Mar, whose district includes the Outer Sunset, struck a deal with the San Francisco Municipal Transportation Agency and other stakeholders last week to roll out a comprehensive set of traffic calming and safety measures to mitigate the impacts of more spilling out to outer avenues.

The San Francisco County Transportation Authority approved approximately $425,000 to fund the installation of 25 speed cushions, six changeable message signs, two stop signs and one speed table as early as next month.

“This was a long time coming, to say the least,” Mar said of the package at Tuesday’s CTA meeting.

He acknowledged the “truly transformative impact” of closing the Upper Great Highway from Lincoln Avenue to Sloat Avenue for residents who enjoy the four-lane road-turned-pedestrian promenade, but also cited the “tremendous challenges and safety concerns for residents” who have experienced dangerous traffic surges on nearby residential streets.

However comprehensive, the traffic mitigation plan only applies to the temporary closure as a response to the ongoing COVID-19 emergency and public health crisis.

Whenever San Francisco emerges from the pandemic and the emergency power expires that has made it possible to quickly implement many SFMTA projects such as Slow Streets, Shared Spaces and temporary transit-only lanes, the future of car-free Great Highway will need to be evaluated once again.

Enter the District Four Mobility Study, an ongoing evaluation of how to provide multimodal mobility to residents of San Francisco’s southwestern-most corners.

“Regardless of what happens over the coming weeks and months or how long the closure continues, we have a collective decision to make about the long-term future of the Great Highway,” Mar said. “It’s not in response to COVID-19, but in response to climate change.” Though the study started in October 2019, CTA’s most recent allocation of $60,000 in Prop. K sales tax dollars will expand the scope of the project to specifically evaluate the future of the Great Highway between Sloat and Lincoln Avenues, a segment of the roadway that city reports determine will eventually have to be closed down altogether due to the threat of erosion and other environmental forces.

“We didn’t decide that, the planet did,” Mar said. “What we do need to decide is how to use the rest of the public space.”

Continuation of the District Four Mobility Study will evaluate what full car closure of the Upper Great Highway might mean for the surrounding neighborhoods as opposed to partial closures or a return to the pre-pandemic status quo.

Staff plans to present the CTA board with a full report by the middle of this year, which will likely inform the eventual decision by city officials about how to go forward.

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