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Bike lanes set for upgrade

Mark Chmiel and Joanie French frequent the bike lane along Tower Grove Ave. enroute to the Missouri Botanical Gardens on Sunday, Sept. 14, 2014. Great Rivers Greenway and the City of St. Louis are working to improve the Bike St. Louis network in the City of St. Louis with a plan to expand and upgrade a total of 135 miles of street routes for bicycles. Photo by Laurie Skrivan, lskrivan@post-dispatch.com

The absence of vehicle detection at traffic signals is among the most frequent complaints received by the St. Louis Streets Department.

Nobody likes being stuck at a stoplight, watching an empty intersection.

Hopefully, that’s about to happen less. The city has ordered 280 wireless in-pavement sensors that look like hockey pucks, so that’s what the streets department calls them, said Jamie Wilson, a traffic engineer who is the bicycle/pedestrian coordinator.

A good chunk of the pucks are set to be installed in city streets starting this month.

The pavement is cored out, the sensor is added and covered with epoxy. It communicates with the signal cabinet — the big silver box you see on the light poles — to signal when a vehicle is sitting in a lane, Wilson said.

It’s not new technology — the city already uses them at about 100 intersections. But the batteries die, which means the signal cycles through to side traffic even if nobody is there.

So crews will check existing pucks to determine whether they’re working, and will replace those that aren’t. Some new intersections getting pucks including Lansdowne Avenue and River Des Peres Boulevard, Jefferson and Scott avenues, as well as Kingshighway and Sutherland Avenue.

The signal at 1900 Hampton Avenue, just north of Interstate 44, will also get new vehicle detection, which should result in better signal operation during all times of day, and especially late night.

Later, crews will check sensors and batteries along McCausland Avenue, Kingshighway, Skinker Boulevard and Hampton Avenue.

It’s something the city wants to get done before the weather gets too cold for the epoxy to work properly.

Not all the new pucks, which cost $120,000 total, will hit the streets immediately, though — Wilson said he wants to keep some in reserve to add and replace as needed.

Bike lanes coming to Baxter

Baxter Road between Clarkson and Wild Horse Creek roads is about to be striped to add a bike lane in each direction, says the St. Louis County Department of Transportation.

The 1.6-mile-long section of road has two driving lanes in each direction, with a shared center left-turn lane. Once the bike lanes are added, cars will have one lane in each direction and a shared center lane. About 17,600 vehicles travel that stretch of road each day.

Adding the bike lanes is supported by the county’s Complete Streets ordinance, which was passed in 2014 after two months of often-contentious debate. It requires that all modes of transportation — including bikes — be considered in road projects.

A contractor is finishing the final phase of a $1.5 million project that includes replacing curbs and sidewalks, building wheelchair-accessible sidewalk ramps and replacing pavement.

Analysis showed that Baxter Road is well-suited for bike lanes, said Nichalos Gardner, director of the county’s departments of transportation and public works, in a statement.

The county says traffic flow shouldn’t be affected, and that Baxter Road’s bike lanes will expand connections to a network that includes bike lanes on Clarkson Road, Wild Horse Creek Road and Edison Avenue.

Other roads where the county has added bike lanes include Lockwood Avenue, between Woodlawn Avenue and Berry Road; Banshee Road, between Missouri Bottom Road and James S. McDonnell Boulevard; and Woodson Road, between Trenton Avenue and Pennell Drive.