Batavia council to pick design for Houston Street work

Updated 1/19/2015 5:42 PM

Bicyclists and runners could follow blue lines, around landscaping, under an "Islands in the River"-themed design proposed for a stretch of the Fox River Trail near the Batavia Riverwalk.

The Batavia City Council will discuss designs at 6:30 p.m. Tuesday at the Batavia Government Center, 100 N. Island Ave. It is one of the last choices to make so that bids can be sought to rebuild Houston Street, from Batavia to Island avenues, this year.

The two designs are at least the second attempt by the council and the design firm Altamanu to come up with a plan for the pathway at the south end of Depot Pond on the Riverwalk.

Altamanu initially suggested separating bicyclists and pedestrians on the path by a curb down the middle. Aldermen said people would trip over it. For that, and other issues, it asked for a redesign.

Under the two designs being considered, sections of the path would have a blue, curvy epoxy placed on them to guide users. The landscaping islands would help slow bicycle traffic.

City Administrator Bill McGrath wrote, in a memo about the designs, that serious, higher-speed bicyclists would likely use Houston to get to the rest of the trail, rather than the path.

The path can have a lot of activity, especially when the city or other entities have festivals at the Riverwalk.

Aldermen have dickered over the design of the Houston Street reconstruction for several years. It is the third segment of downtown roads to be done as part of streetscape work.

Besides improving the bumpy, worn-out street, the design is supposed to improve pedestrian access, and be a more attractive gateway to the downtown.

But aldermen have agonized over the amount of parking that could be taken out in the redesign, whether diagonal on-street parking should remain, whether a right-turn lane should be eliminated at Batavia Avenue, and how a sidewalk could be installed on the north side from Water Street to Batavia Avenue.

And they have disagreed over whether the city should spend much money on aesthetic elements. Several said late last year they doubt a prettier street will do more to spur economic development, given McDonald's has already built a new store, there are already office buildings, and much of the frontage is occupied by the Depot Museum and the Riverwalk.

At that time, Alderman Michael O'Brien steadfastly defended the project, and criticized the council for not sticking with the original plan, saying it had wasted $100,000 with redesigns. He was a liaison to the citizen's committee that worked with Altamanu on the design.

Houston Street was supposed be rebuilt in 2012, but the city first did North River Street, then decided Wilson Street should be done next. The Wilson Street work, which included traffic signal interconnect work, took up much of 2013 and part of the 2014 construction season.

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