WALLA WALLA — Rose Street, the bumpy four-lane traffic arterial on the west side of town, will lose its bumps after a major road improvement project is completed later this year stretching from Ninth Avenue to Myra Road.
The street also will lose two lanes for through traffic and a good number of the old sycamore trees that line it.
The City Council on Wednesday approved a plan to reconfigure the four-lane street into three lanes between the cross streets of 10th and Wildwood avenues.
The new configuration will include two new bike lanes, one on either side of Rose. But the street will actually offer just two through lanes for traffic because the third lane will be a center turn lane.
The reconfiguration plan passed 3-2, with Council members Jerry Cummins and Mary Lou Jenkins voting against the configuration. Mayor Jim Barrow and Council members Barbara Clark and Chris Plucker voted for the lane reduction and addition of bike lanes.
Council members Conrado Cavazos and Shane Laib were absent.
Staff reported that removing two lanes and adding a center turn lane would increase safety on the street, and cited various research and case studies.
Cummins questioned if the streets used in the case studies were fair examples. He also said a single lane of traffic in either direction would cause major delays during bus stops, especially when the buses are picking up people in wheel chairs. Wheel chair pickups and drop-offs average two to three minutes per stop.
Cummins also questioned if having one lane will make pulling onto Rose Street less safe, since the traffic per lane would essentially double and motorists will see their lane options almost cut in half.
Staff maintained the new configuration will increase sight distance, especially with the addition of bike lanes, and will reduce the number of crashes.
As for the trees, from six to 50 of the 80-year-old sycamores will have to be cut down to improve sight distances, which are now a problem for people pulling out of cross streets and onto Rose.
Staff added the addition of bike lanes will increase visibility and thus require fewer trees to be cut down.