In a new op-ed, the supervisor whose district contains the whole stretch of the Great Highway currently closed off to cars calls for a “compromise” deal on reopening the thoroughfare for automobiles.
The car-free status of the Upper Great Highway has not been in place for the entire pandemic, as it was about a month into shelter-in-place when the stretch between Sloat Boulevard and Lincoln Way saw automobiles banished. It’s since become a popular pedestrian and biking destination, and Hoodline reported in March that slightly more than half of San Franciscans polled favor keeping the thoroughfare car-free.
But there have been some safety issues on surrounding smaller streets that are ill-equipped for the resulting increase in detour traffic. Supervisor Gordon Mar, whose district contains the entire area currently closed off to cars, said in a November letter to the SFMTA that “we cannot responsibly keep this closure in place until we have effectively planned to do so in a way that keeps our neighborhood safe."
As the Chronicle reported last month, the SF County Transportation Authority is considering five options — maintaining the current car-free status quo, returning to a full pre-pandemic style reopening to automobiles, or three ‘hybrid’ options that would reopen the highway to cars on weekdays, or with a limited number of car lanes. And in a new op-ed in the Richmond Review, Mar calls for one of the hybrid plans (though he doesn’t say which one).
“I believe there’s room for compromise and we can all find common ground on a debate that has deeply divided our neighborhood,” he writes. “While I believe it’s possible to make the changes necessary to our street network to properly manage traffic flow with the Great Highway fully closed, this work would take years, and it’s unreasonable to continue a full closure beyond the emergency period without taking the long-term steps – including real investments in westside transit service, adding signal lights along Lincoln Way west of Sunset Boulevard, and redesigning the intersection at Sloat and Skyline boulevards – needed to make it successful.”
This decision will ultimately fall onto the supervisors, though there is no timeline on a vote. So it’s likely a few months away, if not longer. The SFCTA is slated to discuss a District 4 Mobility Study at their July 27 meeting, which according to their director of communications, Eric Young, "explored opportunities to increase walking, biking, and transit options in the Outer Sunset and Parkside neighborhoods, with strategies including neighborways, improved access to commercial corridors, local and regional transit connections, and safety improvements for Lincoln Way."
Also, the wild card in all of these considerations is that a half-mile of this particular stretch of the Great Highway will be shut down for construction anyway in 2023.
And, ironically, City Hall’s slow-footedness on this decision may cause the Upper Great Highway to reopen by default. Per its automobile closure orders, the highway is slated to open up to normal traffic 120 days after the COVID-19 emergency orders are lifted.
Image: @jmergy via Twitter