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The Seaward Green Lane Project
By: Derek Towers, Bicycle Coordinator, City of Ventura

One of the most significant progressive bicycle treatments to date, within Caltrans Right of Way, the Seaward Green Lane Project. The project began in 2014 when Union Pacific Railroad installed new fencing, blocking a long and well established, but, illegal at grade crossing from Channel Dr to Vista del Mar. Citizens became very vocal in response to this fence installation. The first of many public involvements was a Community Council Meeting with City Reps and the Public.

The City received citizen requests for over crossings, under crossings, legal at grade, but something needed to be done to address the inadequate existing conditions, of the alternative route to the beach, Seaward Av. Seaward’s existing conditions included, large roadway geometry, ranging between 52’ to 110’ street width, lane configurations of 4 to 9 lanes of traffic, at minimum lane widths. There are 3 signalized intersections, 2 Freeway On-ramps, & 1 Off-ramp. Additional Existing Conditions included; 20,000 ADT (2014 Speed Survey), collector classification, 35 MHP Speed Limit, 40 MPH 85th,  existing 5’ bike lanes next to curb and gutter,  and 4’-5’ Sidewalk only on the west side.

In addition to the challenges of the existing conditions, the Transportation Division identified several challenges with the existing Street Geometry including street, sidewalk, and bike lane widths. There were constraints such as the overhead rail/car bridge crossing. A very large number of conflict zones along the corridor.  The 2’ gutter width with rough transition to the edge of pavement was quite significant in reducing the usable bike lane width.  Later, portions of the Caltrans Partnership would become challenging.

The design process didn’t leave a lot of options. Ventura has been an affiliate member of NACTO since 2012. The Transportation Division has successfully used NACTO’s Urban bikeways design guide for numerous projects. Our Green treatments in other areas of the City have been well understood and received. In previous green treatment projects the City has established a pattern of matching green treatments to existing/proposed striping. This satisfies the requirement of use of green as decorative versus traffic control. We had not previously done intersection treatments. We ended up using a combination of NACTO designs based on previous experience. This decision was for Maintenance and clarity of use. We chose to use the “Elephant Feet” design with matching green for additional visibility through the intersections. It was also determined that the edge of gutter must be ground to increase usable bike lane space. Our Ad Hoc City Bicycle Advisory Committee also approved the design.

We went through several iterations for our specifications. The specs originally called for two types of green treatments. Transpo’s Methyl Methacrylate or “MMA” or equivalent for conflict zones, as identified by dashed striping. The use of Sealmaster “Safe Ride” paint or equivalent for all other areas. This was done for cost savings and based in part on maintenance and wear. The contractor renegotiated the price and did the entire job in the superior MMA product. The project included; 485 LF of New Detail 39A (mostly matching on interior side), 900 LF of the Elephant Track White (1.5’x1.5′), Over 15000 SF Green Markings. This treated approximately 2000 feet each direction. There were signage changes as well.

The Caltrans reviews identified several of these improvements, but also created some challenges of their own. We had strong Support of Caltrans Bicycle and Pedestrian Coordinator. There were several field visits with various Caltrans staff and City staff. Everything was going quite smoothly with getting the Caltrans encroachment permit, until one of the largest challenges was met. The encroachment permit required an update to the Citywide Freeway Maintenance Agreement. This process took a year and nearly sank the project. Both sides were eventually satisfied and the permit was issued.

The Outcome is a dramatic visual difference. The use of Methyl Methacrylate used throughout the project had an unexpected two fold benefit. It significantly increased the visibility of the bike lane. An even greater benefit was its crack-sealing property. In conjunction with the grinding, this increased the usable and effective width of the bike lane. The project has made paths of travel for cyclist and driver clear, as well as highlighting conflict zones. There has been strong support for this design from City Council, Staff, and both public drivers and cyclist.

The project was so well received, BikeVentura, our local bicycle advocacy organization, hosted a Celebration Ride. More than two dozen riders came out on the Sunday following the installation to ride the project as a show of appreciation. Several riders talked about the difference in the feel of the ride, notably safer. We have seen an increase in riders using the eastside uphill lane. We still hope to extend the green to Pierpont Bl. In conclusion, seizing challenging project opportunities like this can lead to incredible results. This project makes it more clear where everyone is going and when to expect to cross paths with each other. Our challenges, lead to roads, which are less challenging for our citizens.

(Photo credit: Rob Perks)