Public meeting to discuss improvements to make Gilbert St. more friendly to cyclists, pedestrians and motorists

Gilbert Street public workshop

Iowa City City Hall — Wednesday, Sept. 27 at 6:30 p.m.

Intersection of Gilbert and Prentiss streets. — photo by Paul Brennan

The area around Gilbert Street is changing, so Iowa City is exploring ways of changing the actual street. On Wednesday, the city will hold a public workshop on plans for an improved, and possibly more bike-friendly, Gilbert Street, featuring a presentation by the consulting firm the city hired for this project.

“There are distinct sections of Gilbert Street corridor,” Iowa City Transportation Planner Kent Ralston said. “We’ve got traditional neighborhood growth on the far south end of the corridor, near McCollister Boulevard. On the north end, we’ve got a really high student population. And the whole area near Big Grove Brewery, north of the highway and south of Kirkwood, is likely to be redeveloped in the next five to 10 years. We need to know what we need to do to make a more cohesive corridor.”

Following a 30-minute presentation on current conditions in the Gilbert Street corridor and outlines of some potential changes, there will be an opportunity for community input. Ralston said the plans for Gilbert will follow the “complete streets approach,” which seeks to balance the needs of motorists, cyclists and pedestrians on the sidewalks. It’s been the model for the city’s recent street work.

“The most recent example of this approach would be 1st Avenue, north of the highway and south of Bradford. It used to be four lanes, but now it’s three lanes with a bike lane,” Ralston said. “A conversion like that allows a street to function more safely with a lot fewer conflict points, since you have the bike lane on the street.”

Converting a lane to a bike lane doesn’t impede the flow of traffic, Ralston said. “There is a little bit of lost capacity, but it’s not nearly as much as one might think.”

Converting four lanes to three with a bike lane is one of the possibilities being considered for Gilbert Street, according to Ralston. “That is not necessarily what will happen on Gilbert, but it’s something we want to put before the public to see if that’s amenable.”

“There are also some plans in the city’s Riverfront Crossing Masterplan that actually show the potential for a four-lane to five-lane section, down by Big Grove Brewery, north of the highway and south of Kirkwood. So, there would be a dedicated turn lane and on-street bike accommodations, as well as better sidewalks.”

Ralston stressed the workshop is just the beginning of the process. “We want to hear what the public thinks of some of these ideas, and what their ideas are for potential uses of the corridor.”

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