San Francisco city officials today celebrated the completion of a project that transformed a major thoroughfare into a more pedestrian- and bicyclist-friendly street.

A mile-long stretch of Cesar Chavez Street between Guerrero and Hampshire streets was the focus of a $28 million sewer and streetscape improvement project that began in 2011 and wrapped up in the past week.

The changes to the street include new bike lanes, bulb-outs to widen sidewalks at various intersections, and raised crosswalks at two intersections to raise driver awareness of pedestrians.

“It will no longer be seen as a thoroughfare to the freeway for cars to speed through,” City Administrator Naomi Kelly said at a news conference this morning.

The improvements were timed to coincide with the planned sewer rehabilitation and repaving of Cesar Chavez Street, and also include the addition of more than 300 new trees and 7,600 other plants, city officials said.

Supervisors David Campos, whose district includes much of the project site, said that residents in the Mission and Bernal Heights neighborhoods had been pushing for the project for years.

“Oftentimes, this neighborhood has been neglected,” Campos said.

“Finally we have a street that’s going to protect them.”

His colleague, Supervisor Scott Wiener, said some residents had predicted that the redesign of the street would lead to “Carmageddon and perpetual gridlock.”

Wiener said, “That hasn’t happened, cars are still able to get through.”

Fran Taylor, co-chair of the group CC Puede, which has advocated for the improvements, said the push for pedestrian-friendly changes came after two young children were struck and injured by a truck on the thoroughfare.

“Walking as a force for social justice has a powerful history,” Taylor said, citing the march for migrant workers’ rights by the street’s namesake.

“The street was in no way worthy of the man it was named after,” she said. “Now we finally have a Cesar Chavez Street to be proud of.”

The project was paid for with money from the city’s general fund and the San Francisco Public Utilities Commission, as well as with state and federal funds.

“We now have a neighborhood-friendly streetscape that is greener, more inviting and enhances safety for people who walk and bike at its core,” Mayor Ed Lee said in a statement. “I thank the neighbors who helped us envision a new streetscape that unites a neighborhood.”

Dan McMenamin, Bay City News

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