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City Project Aims to Add Bike Lanes and Reduce Traffic Lanes to East Village

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DES MOINES, Iowa  --  Driving through Des Moines' East Village is about to get more congested. City leaders want to improve pedestrian safety by reducing traffic lanes.

It’s all part of a plan to add bike lanes along the seven-block stretch of East Grand Avenue through the East Village.

“This project is going to have a lot of pavement markings so it will be really clear where the bike lanes are at. There is going to be a buffer area between the bike lane and where cars will park,” says senior traffic engineer Brian Willham.

The pilot Complete Street Project is the first of its kind in central Iowa. The project would remove a westbound traffic lane and add protected bike lanes in both directions. Willham adds the bike lanes will be painted green in an effort to help draw attention to them and plastic poles will separate the bike lane from the others.

Despite the metro’s countless bike trails, according to a 2015 study Des Moines is one of the least bike-friendly cities in the country when it comes to the number of bike lanes versus commuters.

“Any amount of additional projection that helps bikers is probably is a good thing,” says cyclist Matt Culp.

The project, which is expected to cost $175,000 to $225,000, is scheduled to begin construction this summer. Engineers plan to have the project completed before the Grand Avenue bridge re-opens at the end of the year.

Cycling advocates say the project is a smart idea especially in the downtown’s most thriving district, but Rob Muenchrath realizes it may take drivers some getting used too.

“I think there will be people who will be frustrated that it will slow down traffic, but I think when bikes and cars have to share the street it slows down cars more than this protective bike lane will.”

Engineers will bring the final construction plans before the City Council in April for a final approval.