Wednesday, June 30, 2010

Why One Block of Baker Street Was Just Repaved (When Other Blocks Seem to Need It More)

Paint crews finished the stencils on Fell Street earlier on Tuesday and then came to Baker

A smooth walk or ride up to Golden Gate will greet Sunday Streeters in September

Bicyclists: new smooth and clearly painted bike lane but, as always, beware the door zone

How much difference do smooth, well-maintained streets make? NOPA residents can walk, bike or drive on Baker Street between Golden Gate and McAllister for a reminder of what more of our streets could be like with sufficient funding for street maintenance. Last week the Department of Public Works gave the block a "mill and fill" renewal (replacing the asphalt) and smoothed the new surface. Tuesday this week the paint crews added the bike lane stencils and stripes, and Wednesday a crew laid new thermoplastic road treatment marking the four crosswalks at the Golden Gate and McAllister intersections. The complete treatment for one smooth and sleek block.

As much as NOPA neighbors appreciate the newly paved block, more than a few were surprised that the city selected that particular stretch when Baker just south of McAllister seems to be in much worse condition and other blocks in the neighborhood also need a makeover. Here's some background on how blocks become candidates for repaving, gleaned from working with the staff of the Department of Public Works as a volunteer with the San Francisco Bicycle Coalition:
  • each block in the city has been inspected and given a score for the condition of its surface
  • blocks with the lowest scores need reconstructive work to address severe cracking and sinking problems that have damaged the base
  • other blocks are targeted for spot repairs (potholes and cracks) to extend the life of the surface or for new asphalt for a smooth surface when the roadway is too worn
  • with so many streets in the city requiring reconstruction, repaving or maintenance, DPW gives priority to those that serve transit and bicycles as part of the city's Transit First policy (a great many transit and bike streets are also thoroughfares for motorists so everyone benefits)
  • DPW also factors "geographic equity" into their plans so all neighborhoods see improvements
  • the city mandates that city streets cannot be torn up more than every five years; once reconstruction or paving is planned, all utility work needs to be completed prior to the project moving forward (consider all the public and private utilities in the city and you can imagine the logistics challenge for scheduling)
  • In addition, some individual blocks are repaved by DPW crews while a long ribbon of blocks usually gets contracted to construction firms through a process of notices, bids, and approvals.
Back to the question: why this block of Baker? The full street from Fell to Turk needs repaving with the exception of Fell to Hayes which was more recently smoothed over. Each of those blocks need sewer repairs -- the likely cause of the sinkholes -- while sewer work was already completed from McAllister to Golden Gate. Short answer: that block was a candidate, didn't require more underground utility work, and DPW crews could repave it themselves. The rest of Baker will be repaved once the sewer work is completed. Current projections indicate a May 2011 start date for the repaving.


  1. wow. well I certainly appreciate the smooth parts, even one block at a time! looking forward to Sunday Streets! hope the farmer's market is big & bad that day.

  2. cant wait for SS in sept!! in the nopalands
    will be fantastic!!