It’s flex lane time! What to expect as 20th Street construction nears the finish line
March 28, 2022 · 20th Street
20th Street construction has been underway for some time now and we are so excited to be entering the final phase! We are beginning the lane striping and flex lane painting this week (which is VERY exciting) so let’s break down how we got here and what to expect in the coming weeks.
Rewind to 2020
REV and many other regional economic development partners plus the talented BIG Communications team started working together to create a new brand that represents the vibrant, growing Birmingham that we know and love. As the team prepped to create a flexible brand that could be adapted for different kinds of organizations and branding/marketing needs across the greater Birmingham region, audience research revealed that many people living in some of our peer cities and slightly larger cities didn’t have a negative or positive view of Birmingham. Our city simply wasn’t on their radar. However, when visitors actually experienced Birmingham, they found it to be a city of pleasant surprises.
What are flex lanes?
The flex lane design is based on national best practices and follows the direction of multiple City of Birmingham planning efforts, including the City Center Master Plan (2019), APPLE Study (2018), the Regional Planning Commission’s B Active Plan, and Birmingham’s Complete Streets Ordinance . All recognize a need for a safer and more multimodal downtown, especially along pedestrian corridors like 20th Street North.
The design on 20th Street…
- creates a buffer from traffic for pedestrians on the sidewalk
- adapts to business needs like curbside food pickup, valet stands, and more creative uses
- gives bikes, scooters and other micromobility devices a well-defined space to travel in
- reduces the width of the travel lane, which is proven to reduce speeding, without changing the road’s capacity (meaning 20th can hold the same number of vehicles, but now they’re more likely to observe the speed limit)
Want to learn more about the thought process behind the design of flex lanes?
Parking Day 2020
We first tested out the flex lane concept during Parking Day 2020. ASLA, REV Birmingham, the City of Birmingham and CCDMC teamed up to transform a quarter block of 20th Street North by introducing flexible seating, fresh landscaping, reclaimed pedestrian space and multi-modal street design. We weren’t exactly sure what to expect from this first iteration, but the results were overwhelmingly positive! You can read more about that process by clicking here.
Further flex lane testing
Since the Parking Day project proved to be such a success, we decided to test out the flex lanes a little more before diving all the way into our streetscape refresh project. In early 2021, the colorful triangle pattern that covered the flex lanes for close to a year made its appearance! This trial run helped us learn some do’s and dont’s on painting as well as start conversations with 20th Street stakeholders about what they’d like to see in the bigger 20th Street Refresh project going on now.
All of this has led us to where we are today as we get ready to present the final iteration of the flex lanes to you!
Where are we now?
As we mentioned earlier, we are in the final phase of construction which means all the exciting stuff is happening! This week we are beginning the lane striping and flex lane painting – we will be doing this two blocks at a time, so expect lots of updates on road closures (it’ll be worth it in the end, we promise)!
We highly recommend keeping an eye on our 20th Street page and signing up for our email list here to stay up to date on closings. More finishing touches such as perennials, planters, and furniture that will truly make the project feel complete will be put out near the end of the project, which will be here before you know it!
Remember, when you start seeing our lovely new Birmingham logo in the paint hitting the pavement over the coming weeks, it means that Birmingham has more today than it did before – and that’s more to be proud of in your city!
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