Highways for Habitats #16: Main Street/US 395, Bridgeport CA

Bridgeport Main StreetTransportation planning is tough. Roads have to serve a number of (sometimes competing) purposes. Roads whose primary purpose is moving people and goods quickly through a community often have a detrimental effect on the communities they bisect (see: the history of freeways in Detroit). Take state trunk lines for example, which you can recognize because they’re usually twice as wide to cross as the other roads in a neighborhood, and, of course, highways and interstates. We’re currently running a series of posts featuring creative solutions from around the globe to make these roads – roads that must run through communities – also work to serve those communities. Check out more about our inspiration here.

US 395 weaves through California’s town of Bridgeport, serving as Main Street for Bridgetown’s population of 575. In August of 2012 the Bridgeport Valley Regional Planning Advisory Committee (RPAC), together with the California Department of Transportation (CalTrans), invited the Bridgeport community to discuss ways to “refine the balance between a community main street and a state highway,” through Design Fair workshops. With a goal of meeting community needs, like enhancing safety and strengthening “sense of place,” more effectively, the workshops identified issues and explored solutions. Residents were urged to participate as a vital component of the process: “Don’t wait for others to decide the future for you – please join us and give your input on the future of Main Street!” They were also enticed with food.

The design team consisted of local government representatives, walkability expert Dan Burden, a traffic engineering consultant, a design and architecture firm, and an economist. The design team took resident input and turned it into a feasible plan to enhance Main Street. The plan downsized the street from five lanes to two and a turn lane, and used the extra space to provide additional parking – a medley of parallel and back-in angle depending on location. Back-in angle parking was implemented as it is considered the safest form of parking due to the improved visibility when a driver is pulling back into traffic. Bike lanes were also included in the space available after downsizing lanes, and street crossings were repainted.

The Bridgeport Main Street revitalization was an incredibly quick project from start to finish: from initial community meeting to completed project took only nine short weeks. The project is considered a model for street rightsizing, as well as for community engagement. Further improvements–lighting, seating, and other placemaking strategies—are in development to enhance the historical character of the downtown and support local businesses with a more vibrant downtown.

Photo from Project for Public Spaces courtesy Mono County.