Rainier Avenue Paving & Traffic Calming Upgrades

Project Description

Creating safer streets is top priority for us here at the City. Since September 2021, we have been seeking community input on ways to make Rainier safer. The current road sees approximately 6,000 cars per day across four travel lanes in a 35mph zone. From January 1, 2017 to February 8, 2021, there have been 15 reported collisions, 9 of which resulted in injuries, and were caused by excessive speeds, automobile right-of-way violations, and improper turning.

We will be moving forward with a demonstration project on Rainier which will include temporary elements like paint and rubber barriers (see image on right). Demonstration projects such as this one give the community a chance to experience a proposed change, then provide feedback. The City can then use this feedback to help determine if it makes sense to move forward with a more permanent solution. The demonstration will be up for a minimum of 3 months at which time we will review the feedback and determine how the changes are working for the neighborhood.

Rainier Avenue will be having pavement restoration work performed. Though the current pavement condition may look good, the planned crack and slurry seal restoration will greatly extend the life of the pavement in a cost efficient manner. An added benefit to doing this pavement restoration work is the opportunity to install pavement markings that better support the safety of all users, especially pedestrians and bicyclists (referred to as Active Transportation). Given there are three schools in the immediate area, these added safety markers are important for the community.

COMMUNITY INPUT

We have been seeking community input since September of 2021. Outreach has included:

  • Mailers
  • Virtual Community Workshop
  • Website form
  • Neighborhood Meeting

Below are links to notes and videos of our Virtual Community Workshop

  • CLICK HERE to view notes recapping the workshop and input from the public.
  • CLICK HERE to view a recording of the workshop.
  • CLICK HERE to view the presentation shared during the workshop.

CLICK HERE to view the responses from the webform.

Thank you to all who took the time to engage in this crucial conversation with us. Rainier is an important road in Petaluma and our goal is to make it the best it can be for all users and residents.

Next Steps

We are moving forward with updates to Rainier Avenue using a “demonstration” model. This means, we will implement our proposed changes using temporary elements like paint and rubber barriers.

This will give the community a chance to experience our proposed changes, then provide feedback. We can then use this feedback to inform the final design. The demonstration will be up for a minimum of 3 months at which time we will review the feedback and determine how the changes are working for the neighborhood.

Project Location

The project will take place on Rainier from North McDowell Blvd. to Sonoma Mountain Parkway.

Traffic Impacts & Benefits

There will be minor delays during construction. When completed, the project will help keep the road protected and ensure more extensive reconstruction will not be required in the future and will offer improved safety conditions for motorists, bicyclists, pedestrians and those with limited mobility.

Timeline/Project Status

Staff is working with the community to finalize the project designs.  We hope to implement this demonstration/pilot project in 2022 and the final roadway sealing and striping in 2023.

Council Goals and Priorities

This project works to meet the following City goals:

A City That Works for Everyone

  • Provide City infrastructure that is safe, sustainable, multi-use, efficient, inspiring civic pride.
    • Establish and improve paths, as useful transportation options, and make walking and biking easy, fun, and safe.
    • Better integrate multi-modal transportation with street designs

A Safe Community that Thrives

  • Maintain and enhance public safety and prepare for emergencies and disasters, through crime and fire prevention, and traffic safety.
    • Implement City Vision Zero plan with a focus on pedestrian and cyclist safety with improvements to uncontrolled crosswalks, curb ramps, sidewalk, and bicycle infrastructure.
    • Enhance pavement management program to improve the safety and serviceability of our roads to protect drivers, cyclists, and pedestrians.

This project will help meet our Climate Action goals by allowing roadway users to feel more comfortable and safer walking and riding bikes. Also, this project helps to implement safer routes to nearby schools.

Funding

Funding  is provided by SB-1 and Measure U.

Rainier FAQ's

In the course of community outreach, there were some common questions and concerns that were raised. The following are those questions and our responses to them. If you have additional questions or concerns, please contact Ken Eichstaedt, Senior Traffic Engineer and Project Manager for this project.

WIDE STREET 

Wide streets and traffic lanes can encourage vehicles to speed, especially when the streets are greatly over-sized, i.e., road capacity is not used. While Rainier Avenue serves about 6,200 vehicles per day, the street is designed for over six times that amount!. Because speeding is commonplace on Rainier, there have been many avoidable crashes and injuries.  There have been 15 reported collisions from 2015 to 2019: 9 of these resulted in injuries and were caused by excessive speeds, automobile right-of-way violations, and improper turning.

 

LONG CROSWALKS / NARROW BIKE LANES 

There are only two marked crosswalks along this 3,500-foot segment of Rainer Avene. These crosswalks are long, and pedestrians often report that drivers don’t always see them when they cross the street. People riding bikes use narrow bicycle lanes with only a thin line of paint separating them from speeding vehicles; east of Rushmore Avenue, they must ride next to parked vehicles with no buffer protecting them from getting hit by opening vehicle doors. 

Site distance on Rainier Avenue is poor for motorists turning out from the quad homes, especially when vehicles parked along Rainier Avenue are parked all the way up to the driveways. This makes it difficult for motorists coming out of the driveways to see oncoming speeding vehicular traffic as well as bicycle traffic.

Rainier Pie Chart

DRIVING LANES

According to the Federal Highway Administration (FHWA), converting four traffic lanes to three lanes – one travel lane in each direction with a center left-turn lane – can improve safety and traffic flow while adding benefits for pedestrians and cyclists.¹ 

Converting four traffic lanes to three makes the street safer by reducing vehicle conflicts and speeding. Studies have shown a 19-47% decrease in collisions on roads where the number of lanes has been reduced from four to three. The addition of a center turn lane provides a safer space for vehicles turning left from or onto the street, leading to fewer rear-end, left turn, and sideswipe crashes. Reducing street to three lanes has also proven to lower vehicle speeds and reduces lane changes, creating a safer driving environment. 

Converting four traffic lanes to three lanes can improve traffic flow so there are fewer delays. The addition of a center turning lane can reduce delays on side streets, since vehicles turning left onto the main road have fewer lanes to cross and can turn more comfortably. Reducing the speed difference between vehicles also improves traffic flow since there is less stop-and-go traffic. 

Pedestrians and cyclists also benefit from reducing the number of traffic lanes. Lower vehicle speeds make the street safer for everyone. Pedestrians can cross the street more safely and comfortably since they have fewer lanes to cross and are at risk from moving traffic for a shorter length of time. Reducing the number of traffic lanes makes room to add bicycle lanes. These create more space between cyclists and moving vehicles, especially when there is a buffer or parking lane between the bicycle lane and vehicle lane.

CROSSWALKS
Reducing the width, reducing lanes, and potentially adding refuge islands to a street makes it easier for pedestrians to cross for two reasons: the distance to walk is less and there are fewer lanes to cross. Increasing sight lines is another way to protect pedestrians. This is usually accomplished by painting curbs red near areas where cars can intersect other cars, such as an intersection or driveway. By keeping parked cars further away from a driveway or a crossing, cars and pedestrians have more space and better sightlines to see each other. Finally, new crosswalks with Americans with Disability Act (ADA) ramps will ensure that all users can safely and easily cross the street. This would make it easier for people to walk to nearby parks, schools, and other neighborhood destinations.

Rainier Example Crosswalk
Example of a crosswalk with reduced crossing distance and improved sightlines.

BIKE LANES

Currently, cyclists use a narrow bicycle lane from North McDowell Boulevard to Rushmore Avenue. Wider, protected bike lanes would make cycling safer and more comfortable for people of various ages and abilities. Given the high traffic volumes and speeds on Rainier, a protected bikeway is recommended to protect cyclists. Both the FHWA and the National Association of City Transportation Officials (NACTO) recommend a separated bikeway for roadways like Rainier Avenue based on the street’s speed limit (35 MPH) and vehicle volume (over 6,200 vehicles per day).² 

Protected bikeways, also known as cycle tracks, are typically at the street level and use a variety of methods for physical protection from passing traffic.³ Cyclists may be separated from traffic by a parking lane, post, bollard, or other barrier. Protected bikeways improve safety and comfort for cyclists of all ages and abilities by dedicating protected space for cyclists to ride. They remove the risk of collisions from vehicles passing too closely to cyclists, and buffers between the bicycle lane and parking lane prevent the risk of being hit by opening vehicle doors.

Rainier Protected Bikeway Images
Examples of a protected bikeways. Rainier Avenue is wide enough to provide a 5-foot buffer between the parking area and the bike lanes, and a 3-foot buffer between parked cars and the westbound travel lane.

 

 

¹FHWA Road Diet Informational Guide

²FHWA Bikeway Selection Guide, NACTO Urban Bikeway Design Guide

³NACTO One-Way Protected Cycle Tracks

Rainier Avenue is large enough to accommodate about 40,000 cars per day. Even with a lane reduction the street could accommodate more than the total vehicles using the road now. If Rainier Avenue were extended westerly at some time in the future, we believe that a three-lane street would still be sufficient for the expected increase in cars that would use Rainier Avenue. Thus, we don’t believe people would choose to go out of their way to avoid Rainier Avenue and use nearby neighborhood streets. 

Traffic volumes on Rainier Avenue are well below the threshold to support one through lane in each direction. During the peak hours, Rainier Avenue carries up to 325 vehicles in each direction, but the street’s peak hour capacity is over four times that. Reducing the number of lanes from four to three would provide traffic calming while still leaving room for over 800 vehicles per hour in each direction. This is still many more vehicles than use the road today. There would also be more than enough room for potential future traffic from the Crosstown Connector, which would be projected to result in about 200 additional vehicles per hour, or a total of 525 vehicles per hour in each direction during the peak hours.

Parking on Rainier Avenue is currently provided along both sides of the street: there is space to park over 200 vehicles along the entire length of the roadway. However, less than one-third of the curb space west of Maria Drive is occupied during peak times, and even less is occupied east of Maria Drive. To accommodate a safer road design for all users, parking would be limited to the north side of the street. Given the number of spaces that will be on the north side, we believe that there will be sufficient parking to accommodate current needs. With parking on the north side of the street, additional mid-block high visibility crosswalks with median refuge islands could be installed to provide safer pedestrian and bicycle crossings for people who live on the south side of the street.

Zoomed In Concepts with Annotations_Parking

One of the best ways to park cars and protect cyclists is by moving cars away from the curb and putting the bike lane in between the sidewalk and the parked cars. If this did occur, there would be a five-foot buffer protecting the parked cars from the bikeway and an extra three-foot buffer protecting the parked cars (and doors) from the moving vehicle travel lane. The design would alleviate the potential for car doors opening into bike lanes or sidewalks.

When studying the street, we realized that the driveways located along Rainier Avenue do not provide adequate sight lines for people currently exiting the driveways. We plan to correct that by painting the curbs red for 20 feet on each side of the driveways. Regardless of how we decide to move forward with the repaving and repainting project, we would paint the curbs to meet safety standards. 

Under existing conditions motorists maneuvering out of their driveways to Rainier Avenue immediately have to focus on yielding to pedestrians. Then their focus switches to avoiding cyclists and vehicles all from a location with limited sight distance due to parking being allowed all the way up to their driveways.  

Under the proposed conditions, sight lines will be improved by adding 20-25-feet of red curb paint recommended by NACTO and the FHWA at driveways, giving motorists coming out of their driveways better sight lines and more time to react to oncoming vehicular traffic. Additionally, moving the bike lanes towards the curb allows drivers to first focus on pedestrians and bikes safely. They can then pull out of their driveway and focus on oncoming traffic, which will be afforded with improved sight lines. With the parking setbacks motorists entering Rainier Avenue will improve safety conditions.

Zoomed In Concepts with Annotations_Sight Lines

Studies show that almost two-thirds of adults would consider riding their bike more often if they had better places to ride, and as many as 81% of those would ride in protected bike lanes.

Another type of bike lane, “buffered bike lane” delineates space for bicyclists but does not provide a physical separation between people cycling and driving. With on-street parking, they also place the bicycle between parked vehicles and moving motor vehicles. This can feel uncomfortable for cyclists, especially on streets with multiple vehicle lanes, high traffic volumes, and high speeds. Buffered bike lanes are also “pervious”, i.e., cars can cross them at any location to enter or exit on-street parking areas.  This results in additional conflicts.

Protected bikeways use physical separation – such as posts or parked vehicles – to create a space that is consistently designated for cyclists. These are recommended instead of buffered bike lanes on roads where daily traffic volumes are higher than approximately 6,000 vehicles and where vehicle speeds exceed 25 MPH, such as Rainier Avenue. Physical separation makes these bikeways safer and more comfortable for cyclists of all ages and abilities regardless of the number of lanes, traffic volumes, or speeds. Protected bikeways also improve the overall organization of the street, which increases safety for people walking, cycling, and driving. (NACTO)

Rainier Bike lanes 4_25

While a two-way bikeway on the south side of Rainier would not require cyclists to cross driveways, this is not the safest option for cyclists on Rainier Avenue. A two-way bikeway would create complex conflict points at heavily trafficked intersections where drivers would need to look for vehicles, pedestrians, and two directions of bike traffic before making a turn. Drivers would need to look for cyclists traveling against the flow of vehicle traffic: this is an unexpected place for cyclists to be and could lead to collisions from drivers not spotting cyclists in time, especially when cyclists must cross Rainier to turn onto a side street.  

With the one-way bikeway design, drivers would still need to look for cyclists in the bike lane when entering and exiting their driveways, however, the potential conflict points at driveways are less complex. This is because they have much lower vehicle volumes, vehicles are moving at much slower speeds, and they are only moving in two directions – in or out of the driveway – as opposed to intersections where hundreds of vehicles are moving in multiple directions and at varying speeds. Additionally, the fact that vehicles’ movements can be staged into two movements when exiting the driveways gives them more time to look for potential conflicts. Drivers first scan for pedestrians on the sidewalk and for cyclists in one direction before moving to the buffered area before they enter the travel lane, which would have improved sight lines under the proposed design. Here they can scan for moving vehicle traffic and make their turns safely. 

We strongly believe that installing a protected bikeway in each direction, one on each side, is the safest solution because it allows cyclists to more safely travel through and across Rainier Avenue compared to a two-way bikeway. This aligns with NACTO and FHWA guidelines, which recommend one-way bikeways instead of two-way bikeways when streets are wide enough to accommodate them, where there are destinations on both sides of the street, and where there are limited connections to other bike facilities.

The protected bike lane would be designed to allow streetsweepers to safely clean the bikeway and street.  There would also be ample space to place garbage bins along the sidewalk where they could be reached by garbage trucks.  

The gaps before, at, and after driveways would allow garbage and mail vehicles to pull over without holding up traffic in the vehicle lanes.

Zoomed In Concepts with Annotations_Street Sweeping Garbage

The project budget does not include funds for planting street trees at this time. However, street trees could be planted in the future, possibly even in some of the wider buffer areas.

We plan to install a temporary demonstration project along a portion of the street so that we can test the design and get additional community feedback. This would be done by removing existing pavement markings and installing new painted markings to create the new alignment. During the demonstration period, the community would have the opportunity to weigh in so the City can make adjustments before the final paving and striping installation, if necessary.

Rainier Avenue is scheduled to be repaved and re-striped in late 2022. The traffic calming demonstration would be implemented by mid-summer and would provide an opportunity for people to submit their feedback on the design. Prior to the demonstration project, the City of Petaluma will present the overall project to the City Council this summer.

exhibit aerial - proposed

Rainier Avenue – Proposed Changes

exhibit base aerial - current

Rainier Avenue – Current

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