McKinleyville’s Ocean Drive could become pilot project for edge lane road

Jack Durham
Mad River Union

McKINLEYVILLE – If the residents of Ocean Drive support the idea, their street on McKinleyville’s west side may become a pilot project for the first “edge lane road” in the State of California.

The design, utilized in Netherlands, Sweden and United Kingdom for decades, is intended to slow down traffic, reduce accidents and improve safety for pedestrians and bicyclists.

Instead of two opposing lanes, as now exist on Ocean Drive, an edge lane road would have one lane in the middle, with bike lanes and parking lanes on the sides. When vehicles traveling in opposite directions approach each other, they slow down and use the side lanes, assuming their are no bicyclists or pedestrians in them.

Humboldt Public Works Director Tom Mattson said he’s enthusiastic about the idea, but emphasized that it’s up to the residents of Ocean Drive.

The first step in the process will be a walkability audit for Ocean Drive. Mattson said his department is working with the Redwood Community Action Agency to set up this public process, which will need to be adapted due to the coronavirus. That audit could take place next month.

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Then a series of meetings will be held to receive input.

“It’s up to the people what they want,” Mattson said.

The county is going to use SB1 gas tax money to repave Ocean Drive, which is crumbling. The county will need to dig up parts of the road and make drainage improvements, and hopes to finish the project in 2022.

The edge lane road concept involves road striping and any doesn’t add any substantial costs to a project, which is part of its appeal. 

Transportation consultant Michael Williams gave a presentation about edge lane roads at the Aug. 6 meeting of the Humboldt County Association of Governments Technical Advisory Committee.

Williams said he was unaware of any such lanes existing in California, but they are used in European countries, Canada and there are examples in Vermont and  Minnesota.

Williams said that the lanes have advantages such as being inexpensive and  safe. They lower vehicle speeds and provide space for pedestrians and bicyclists.

The challenge, he said, is that because the lanes are a new idea in the United State, people are unfamiliar with them.

But studies conducted of six different edge lanes has found no head-on collisions and  no issues  due to misunderstanding of the road’s operation. The studies showed that there was either no change in vehicle crash rates, or there was a reduction in crash rates.







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