Moscow council favors narrower streets

Garrett Cabeza, Moscow-Pullman Daily News, Moscow, Idaho
·3 min read

Apr. 8—Narrower streets will reduce roadway maintenance costs, calm traffic and could reduce housing costs in Moscow, said Bill Belknap, deputy city supervisor of community planning and design.

The Moscow City Council on Tuesday night approved changes in the city's street standards that included naming 28-foot wide streets as the local (residential) street standard and 36-foot wide streets as an alternative standard. The preferred and alternate options were reversed prior to the council's decision Tuesday.

Belknap told the council there still may be situations, such as high demand for on-street parking, where 36-foot wide residential streets are more appropriate.

"That standard would still be available," he said. "We would be promoting the 28-foot standard as our preferred street standard."

A 28-foot wide street includes two 10-foot travel lanes and eight feet for on-street parking on one side of the street. A 36-foot wide street consists of two 10-foot travel lanes and 8-foot wide on-street parking on both sides of the street.

In 2014, the 34-foot standard was increased to 36 feet and the 28-foot alternative standard was limited to use in cul-de-sacs and short unextendible streets, Belknap said. The City Council's approval Tuesday removes those limitations on the 28-foot street.

The Moscow Planning and Zoning Commission is working on new subdivision standards, including traditional and clustered development options, to provide greater flexibility and allow compact and innovative developments that would benefit from a 28-foot street standard, Belknap said.

He said the 28-foot standard has been in the city's street standards for about 20 years. Many residential streets, like Sixth Street east of Mountain View Road, are 28 feet wide.

Narrower streets provide several benefits, Belknap said.

He said 28-foot streets, as opposed to 36-foot ones, would save the city about $500,000 per mile in street maintenance costs over a 50-year lifecycle. The narrower streets also help reduce neighborhood traffic speeds, which hopefully reduce future demand for traffic calming measures.

Belknap said permitting on-street parking on only one side of a street, like a 28-foot street does, allows snow removal crews to push snow consistently away from parked vehicles and expedites snow removal operations.

Regarding housing, Belknap said the construction of public improvements is a significant component of development costs and has ranged from $35,000 to $55,000 per home in a subdivision. Reducing the roadway width from 36 to 28 feet would reduce those public improvements, and those cost savings could be passed on into lower home prices.

Narrower streets also reduce stormwater runoff because of less impervious road surface, lessen heat island effect because of the reduced asphalt surface area and lower environmental impacts from construction due to less required road maintenance.

The City Council expressed their fondness for the long list of benefits Belknap mentioned.

"I think this is a very good thing," Councilor Gina Taruscio said.

Cabeza can be reached at (208) 883-4631, or by email to gcabeza@dnews.com.