Q: Why doesn’t the city of Tacoma eliminate on-street parking on South Cedar Street between South 14th and South 18th in order to eliminate a bottleneck there? – Carol W., Tacoma
A: Those of you who drive in Tacoma know that the North Alder/South Cedar corridor is a key link between the city’s North End and points south.
You also know exactly what Carol is talking about.
South Cedar is two lanes southbound from where it splits with Alder until it reaches South 14th Street, where it pinches down to one lane to allow for on-street parking.
That southbound lane extends to South 18th Street, where Cedar then expands back to two lanes just before its intersection with South 19th Street.
There is a similar lane reduction on northbound Cedar in roughly the same area.
Not ideal for a busy arterial, Carol pointed out in a missive to Traffic Q&A headquarters.
“It would improve traffic flow so much if it could be two lanes all the way, especially during the morning and evening rush,” Carol said. “Can you figure this out?”
Well, Carol, we can give it that old college (University of West Florida, class of ’91; go Argonauts!) try.
First we decided to have a look-see at the situation, so into the beat-up Honda we piled and off to South Cedar Street we drove.
Carol is right: Those lane reductions certainly create a bottleneck.
To make matters worse, the blending of one lane into another, especially southbound, is not clearly marked. We saw a couple of, uh, interesting merges when southbound drivers realized what was up.
Carol’s conclusion confirmed, back to the office we limped (the Honda’s on its last legs), and an email we sent to Josh Diekmann, Tacoma’s traffic engineer.
We’re afraid Mr. Diekmann’s answer is not likely to satisfy.
Any effort to address the bottleneck would require a substantial amount of study and planning, he said. (We suspect a good deal of money as well.)
One consideration to be addressed, Diekmann said, is the desire to add bicycle lanes along the Alder/Cedar corridor, as outlined in the city’s Transportation Master Plan.
“In order to determine the ultimate solution, city staff would need to refine the concept found in the Transportation Master Plan to determine what improvements might be needed to implement the desired bicycle facilities,” he said. “This knowledge would be required before making a decision about whether or not to implement an interim restriping solution.”
Sounds to us like things will remain the same for the foreseeable future, Carol.
On the up side, Diekmann said his staff would look into the issue this spring.
He also threw out this:
“In the meantime, we did notice that there is room for short-term improvement, albeit not the restriping solution the reader was looking for — we plan to add a ‘Lane Ends’ sign for the south direction near South 14th Street.”
That likely would help some of the merging adventures we saw.
Alas, we found no such sign during our reconnaissance late last week.
We’ll put a bug in Diekmann’s ear about that as soon as possible.