The City of Columbia is planning to add bike lanes — and reduce the number of automotive traffic lanes — on two thoroughfares in the heart of downtown.
During a December Columbia City Council work session, city Planning Administrator John Fellows shared plans for the addition of bike lanes on east-west routes on Washington Street and on north-south routes on Marion Street.
According to city paperwork, the section of Washington in question is from Lincoln Street to Pickens Street. Plans call for two new bike lanes — one in each direction — and a reduction in automotive traffic lanes from four to three.
Meanwhile, the section of Marion in question is from Calhoun Street to Pendleton Street. It would include the addition of two bicycle lanes, one headed in each direction, and automotive traffic lanes would be reduced from four to two.
“Marion Street [plans are] providing a very long north-south connection, which would essentially go from Calhoun all the way down to the USC main campus,” Fellows told Council. “That would create a very good connection for the BullStreet development, downtown, and USC.”
The cost for painting the new lines and creating the new lane structure will be just less than $208,000, and a federal Transportation Alternatives Program grant funding is helping pay for the projects.
The city plans to make improvements to the road surface as part of the changes.
“The road improvements would be some type of seal coat, a type of product that would allow for longevity of the existing road surface, as well as allowing for a fresh surface for the painting,” Fellows said.
City officials say that parking spaces along the streets in question will remain.
Councilman Daniel Rickenmann asked Fellows why city staff is targeting Washington and Marion streets for the lane changes.
The planning administrator listed several reasons, but noted one key piece: ownership.
“One of the objectives was to look at streets that were city-owned, so that we could implement easily without a lot of having to deal with DOT, jurisdictionally,” Fellows said. “Washington, for that segment, is all owned by the city. Marion Street is all owned by the city.”
The city will launch a public information campaign about the new bike lanes and reduced automotive lanes later this year. The blitz will include public meetings, press releases, mailings to neighbors on and near the streets, conversations with neighborhood association presidents and more.
The effort to make the lane changes stretches back three years. In 2017, the city applied for federal TAP grant funding for the downtown grid. They were eventually awarded the nearly $208,000 that will be used on Washington and Marion.
“Providing greater connectivity within the downtown core, these two proposed bike facilities will provide a connection between the Bull Street redevelopment and USC's campus, as well as to residents, including students, who are residing downtown in increasing numbers,” reads a staff memo to City Council.
Fellows thinks the improvements will be beneficial for all who traverse those sections of Marion and Washington.
“I think when we finish the project you’ll see that both vehicular and bike traffic would actually flow better,” the planning administrator told Council.