Drivers on a stretch of 18th Street are seeing fewer but wider lanes after a restriping that went along with a pavement renewal project.
The two-mile section of 18th Street between Waco Drive and La Salle Avenue has been slimmed from four lanes to three, with one extra-wide lane reserved as a shared lane for cars and bikes.
The Texas Department of Transportation, which maintains the one-way southbound road, recently restriped it as crews completed the mill and overlay project to improve the asphalt surface. The shared-use lane should be completed by September, TxDOT Waco district spokesman Ken Roberts said.
The city of Waco requested the restriping in keeping with recommendations from a 2017 study of the 17th-18th-19th Street corridor. The reconfiguration will allow for wider lanes, said Eric Gallt, city traffic engineering manager.
He said a standard lane is 12 feet wide, but some lanes on 18th Street were as narrow as nine, which can make drivers feel uncomfortably cramped.
The city of Waco maintains 17th Street, which still has four lanes heading northbound, but no pavement or restriping work has been announced for the coming year.
Gallt said he doesn’t expect any negative impact on traffic flow from the lane reduction, even if traffic significantly increases.
“We have more than enough capacity given three lanes to address that future traffic,” Gallt said.
The 2017 study found that traffic in the 17th-18th corridor south of Waco Drive actually dropped to about 15,000 vehicles per day from 25,000 a decade earlier.
“One of the things we did note is the traffic volumes are very low,” said Chris Evilia, director of the Waco Metropolitan Planning Organization, which was involved in the study. “In fact, it would be in under-utilized condition right now.”
However, getting rid of too much capacity could cause unforeseen problems.
“Very early on, we determined that if we turned them to two-way, that would be removing too much capacity,” Evilia said.
The study by Freese and Nichols recommended restriping, defined bike lanes, designated bus areas and wider sidewalks, which are presently patchy and inconsistent.
In the current project, one section of the new lanes at the intersection of 18th and Waco Drive must be restriped so the new lanes better align with existing lanes. That tweak is scheduled to happen before the end of the week.
“We did have some issue where we had two lanes merging into one with no directions, because of how they lined up,” Gallt said.