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Changes pitched for downtown Hayward Loop

HAYWARD — It took three years to create the serpentine Hayward Loop through the heart of downtown Hayward, but it could take more than two decades to realign it and restore two-way traffic on what are now one-way streets.
The finding is one of many outlined by planning and engineering consultants in a preliminary plan that covers a 320-acre slide of Hayward largely centered in the downtown area. The plan and its recommendations were crafted by San Luis Obispo-based Lisa Wise Consulting following at least six workshops, four meetings with a public task force overseeing the plan and interviews with Hayward residents, business owners and administrators.
Changing or modifying the Hayward Loop continually rose to the surface as a hot topic during the public meetings and workshops, said Patrick Siegman, principal of the NelsonNygaard transportation consulting firm in San Francisco.
“Certainly one thing that we heard is that the existing city street network does a good job of allowing a lot of automobile traffic to move through downtown,” Siegman said at a July 11 joint City Council and planning commission meeting where the downtown Hayward plan was discussed.
“On the other hand, the downside has been that people very much felt that the streets seem to be more designed to move people through downtown, rather than really supporting downtown as a destination and a place,” he said.
One possible solution, he said, is to make the Mission Boulevard, Foothill Boulevard and Jackson Street intersection — known as the Five Flags intersection — into a “more bicycle and pedestrian friendly” area by creating an oblong-shaped roundabout, with a 65,340-square-foot linear open space area that would allow vehicles to enter and exit onto Foothill, Mission, Jackson, E Street and Francisco Street.
D Street and Mission Boulevard also would be re-aligned “to focus on the new library plaza” that will be created once the new Hayward Library & Community Learning Center, next to the downtown Hayward post office, is complete and the current library is razed, Siegman said.
The new road configuration could allow about 22,525 square feet of land around the Five Flags intersection to be set aside for development projects, he said.
Many key one-way streets along the Hayward Loop would be reconfigured to accommodate two-way traffic under preliminary transportation plans, including A, B and C streets, along with Mission and Foothill boulevards, Siegman said.
Removing or modifying vehicle travel lanes could allow protected bicycle lanes — buffered from traffic by planters, curbs or parked cars — on Foothill, A, C, Main and Second streets, Siegman said.
However, the improvements “could take 20, 30 or 40 years to build out, depending on funding and other factors,” Siegman said.
The proposed Hayward Loop changes were tested by Portland, Ore.-based Kittelson & Associates using simulated models of traffic through downtown Hayward, said Kathryn Slama, Lisa Wise Consulting senior associate.
“Based on community input that we received to date, the vision does what it was intended to do; it slows traffic down and it discourages regional cut-through traffic,” Slama said.
“This does come with a potential trade-off, which means that it could slow down traffic for automobiles during rush hour,” she said.
“Although this plan may actually increase traffic drive times, what I like about it overall is that it promises to reduce the amount of traffic that’s coming from our neighbors,” Planning Commissioner Daniel Goldstein said.
“At the same time, it’s still inviting enough that it allows our neighboring communities to participate here in Hayward; we don’t want to shut people out, but we do want to reclaim the traffic patterns that belong to Hayward,” he said.
At least four council members — Mark Salinas, Elisa Marquez, Al Mendall and Francisco Zermeno — said converting some one-way streets to two-way travel lanes should be an immediate, short-term goal for the city.
“I think that once those are implemented, it’s only going to be a matter of time before everyone who uses our streets to get to their destination will realize that is no longer an option and will prefer to stay on the freeway,” Marquez said.
City leaders also should consider 5- to 10-mph speed limits in downtown and either prohibiting cars in downtown Hayward altogether or blocking cars from entering certain downtown streets on weekends, such as Main or B, Salinas said.
“I don’t mind people driving through our downtown; I just want them to stop and grab a burger or catch a movie. But driving through our downtown at 50 miles an hour certainly shouldn’t happen,” Salinas said.
Mayor Barbara Halliday, who voted for the loop as a councilwoman, disagreed and said that “if the traffic doesn’t move through the downtown, it’s the neighboring streets that are going to get inundated.”
“I don’t think we’re going to be getting rid of cars for a long time and we have to realize that, and if we make our downtown inaccessible to automobiles, that’s not going to do a lot for business,” Halliday said.
“We have to be careful about how we do this; I’m not a fan of automobiles, but they exist and I don’t see them going away,” he said.

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