Planners suggest tourism solutions

Moving storefronts back, developing seawalk among consultants' ideas

Posted: Friday, September 05, 2003

Transportation planners offered a variety of alternatives Thursday night at Centennial Hall to ease tourism congestion on South Franklin Street.

But some who attended the meeting said building a South Franklin bypass, expanding sidewalks or developing the seawalk would fail to ease foot traffic if docks are built to accommodate more cruise ships.

Transportation consultants from Kittelson & Associates of Portland, Ore., suggested short-term solutions to congestion, such as increasing the visibility of crosswalks, requiring stores to install awnings that cover sidewalks and clearing sidewalk obstructions such as lampposts, utility boxes and benches.

They also suggested long-term projects such as moving storefronts on South Franklin back from the road to allow for more sidewalk space and developing the waterfront pedestrian path known as the seawalk.

"There's this great seawalk out there that is wide open and ready for pedestrian use," said Sonia Hennum, a project manager for Kittelson & Associates. "The problem related to tourism is that while it's a great seawalk, everywhere the tourists want to go - the shops and the restaurants - are not on the seawalk. They're on South Franklin."

Developing the seawalk would attract pedestrians and help spread out some of the congestion, she said.

Another option is to turn South Franklin Street into a one-way street moving southbound and Gastineau Avenue, a hillside street that runs parallel to South Franklin Street, into a one-way street moving northbound.

The city also could choose to close South Franklin Street to vehicles completely from the downtown library to the Franklin Dock. Vehicle traffic would be routed to Gastineau Avenue.

Hennum also said development of the Rock Dump area, just south of the tourism district, could spread out foot traffic.

She noted, however, that developing the Rock Dump could expand congestion further south and increase the need to shuttle tourists back and forth to downtown.

Larry Spencer, a local commercial real estate broker, said the group did not provide many useful suggestions because their alternatives largely focused on creating more space to accommodate tourists on Franklin Street.

"There's much more simple land use that can solve the problem than building transportation facilities," he said. "I think we need to move more of our tourism expansion of the downtown area away from that 1,000-foot choke point which runs from the parking garage to the Franklin Street dock."

Rather than establishing a bypass on Gastineau Avenue or establishing a new tourism area near the Rock Dump, Spencer suggested sending cruise ships to the Coast Guard subport, just north of the Steamship Wharf area, to spread out cruise ship traffic.

Paul Thomas, a downtown business owner, agreed with Spencer that more development of the existing tourism district is not the solution.

"In the long run it's not going to really help the situation," he said. "It's going to add to it."

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