When traffic volume goes up, engineers have a plan; add more lanes, but is there also a plan when volume goes down?
They say "down?" "You know, we never really thought about that."
Well now there is a plan; reduce the lanes a reclaim the space. Create a more friendly street for all. Pedestrian and bicycle advocates are starting to suggest lane reduction on an urban arterial; especially where traffic volume no longer justifies so many lanes. It makes the street friendlier. Two wider lanes, rather than 3 narrow ones, can even make the experience less nerve wracking for drivers. Besides the slightly wider lanes, extra space is also available for a bike lane.
This plan was tried on State Street, in Bellingham, WA., during a re paving project in 2001. The street looks calmer and more residential in nature. This fits a new trend that is developing for use of downtown buildings; housing. Like the older cores of many cities, people are rediscovering the virtues of living in a higher density neighborhood. Downtown is becoming a residential address of choice. It is getting a healthy mix of housing, small businesses and recreational opportunities. The new street fits right in.