Bump-outs back in, a bit

The much-debated streetscape design feature known as the “bump-out” is back in the plans for the first phase of Bellevue’s main street revitalization project. Advocates for the feature appealed to Bellevue Council once again at council’s regular meeting on Tuesday, and received permission to add one set of bump-outs to the construction plans.

The bump-out is an area in which the sidewalk and curb are extended into the street about seven feet.This provides for an area that can be landscaped and provide room for benches, informational kiosks, garbage cans, etc. The bump-out is about 20 feet in length, which has no impact on parking spaces when the bump-out is placed at a crosswalk because state law prohibits parking within 20 feet of a crosswalk.

Those who favor the addition to the Lincoln Avenue streetscape argue that in addition to the esthetics of the feature, a bump-out provides a highly visible area at crosswalks that will increase pedestrian safety, and also provide for “green” infrastructure that will make the borough eligible for grant funding and help meet stormwater management guidelines. the bump-outs are used to collect water run-off from the street and channel it into adjacent landscaping.

Those opposed to the feature argue that they will increase the maintenance necessary along the street, will provide an obstacle for the street sweeper and snow plows, and will slow vehicular traffic on the avenue because buses will not be able to stop outside the traffic lanes.

The original streetscape design included a large number of bump-outs along the main street of town. After review by the Business District Advisory Committee, the majority of the bump-outs were removed from the design and their placement limited to intersections with crosswalks where they would not interfere with bus stops or the turn radius of a large truck. When that plan reached council last month, however, the majority voted to eliminate all bump-outs from the design.

Council members Mark Helbling and Kathy Coder re-introduced the matter at Tuesday’s meeting, asking that council reconsider before the construction specifications are advertised for bid later this month.

“This is one shot at beautifying Bellevue,” said Helbling. “We’re really missing a big opportunity.”

Coder called on council to compromise and allow a few bump-outs, but council member Jane Braunlich pointed out that the bump-outs were only a small part of a plan that had been approved by council after compromising on other features.

Council president Linda Woshner said that her views had not changed. “I have been very vocal from the very beginning that I did not like the bump-outs,” she said, noting that she had visited other communities where bump-outs have been in place for many years, and officials did not care for them. Council member Susan Viscusi said she also had heard from people who did not want bump-outs along Lincoln Avenue.

Landscape architect Brad Hazelwood, who designed Bellevue’s streetscape plan, said that the opportunities for green infrastructure alone would make it worthwhile for Bellevue to install some bump-outs. He said that the borough’s multi-phase construction plan would take years and millions of dollars, a financial burden that could be eased by the grant funding that is available for environmental features.

“These are things that the state and county want us to do,” said Helbling.

He initially suggested adding four sets of bump-outs along Lincoln Avenue, but council chose instead to focus only on the first phase of construction, which will take place between Starr and Jackson avenues. The final version of Helbling’s motion to amend the design included one set of bump-outs, to be placed at the Jackson Avenue intersection and crosswalk, in front of Pizza Bomonti and the Rent-A-Center buildings.

That motion was approved in a 6-3 vote, with Helbling, Coder, Jim Scisciani, Jim Viscusi and Lynn Tennant Heffley in favor, and Woshner, Braunlich and Susan Viscusi opposed.


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