The project, which will be put out to bid this summer, calls for the widening of sidewalks, enlarging of medians, installation of new pavement markings and bicycle lanes from Second Avenue to FDR Drive; and creation of two new plaza areas.
StreetsBlog.org breaks it down for bicyclists. As they note, the project calls for bigger sidewalks but no protected bike zone. (StreetsBlog published this depection of East Houston; the existing street is shown in the inset)
As Streetsblog notes:
Currently, 70 percent of drivers on East Houston Street speed, according to studies conducted by Transportation Alternatives. "It's hard to imagine that paint will offer the kind of protection mainstream New Yorkers will need to feel safe biking on this crucial, yet dangerous corridor," said TA's Wiley Norvell. "The city has innovative physically-protected designs on hand, and to not use them on Houston would be a huge missed opportunity."
In response, DOT emphasized the project's pedestrian improvements. DOT considers protected bike paths less-than-ideal for typical two-way streets, and the agency expects the removal of two traffic lanes to reduce vehicle speeds.
Even if traffic calms somewhat, the buffered lane will invite the same double-parking that plagues other Class 2 lanes. People choose to bike based on their perceptions of safety, and a buffer can only shift perceptions so far.
"Houston is by no means a typical two way street," said Norvell. "It is exactly the type of wide arterial roadway that calls for a physically separated lane. This city's bike network will continue to remain unusable for the average New Yorker until streets like Houston are provided with the protected lanes they require to be safe."
Meanwhile, the project is expected to be completed in 2011. Which, if you're cynical, means 2013. Or so. And improvements aside, I can't help but wonder how much the reconstruction may change the character of the street.