If it seems like we have been talking about the Fifth Street Redesign for a long time, it is because we have. However, if council approves the staff recommendations this evening at the city council meeting, things might finally be able to progress to the point where RFPs go out for bid.
Staff recommendations call for approval of the plans and specifications for Fifth Street Corridor Improvements, and to authorize bid advertisement. The city manager would award the contract if it comes in within the estimated budget. Staff would be authorized to advance-order the signal equipment.
The project itself was budgeted in this current year’s budget with partial funding coming “from a SACOG [Sacramento Area Council of Governments] grant up to $836,000, a HSIP [Highway Safety Improvement Plan] grant up to $200,000 and a CDBG [Community Development Block Grant] grant up to $50,000. The remaining funds will come from transportation funds covered by this Capital Improvement Project and the Transportation Road maintenance Program7252.”
The total present cost is expected to be near $1.9 million, with around $800,000 coming from various city funds.
Back in October, the council approved the final design of the corridor improvements, directing staff to prepare the construction bid documents.
Some of the critical features of the project include the installation of new or upgraded ADA (Americans with Disabilities Act) ramps at the intersections, additional street lights throughout the corridor, marked crosswalks, modified traffic signals at A, B, and L to accommodate the new configuration, and eight-phase signals at the intersections of F and G.
There would also be a signal at the fire station to accommodate the fire vehicles during emergencies, a rapid rectangular flashing beacon at the intersections of C and J, raised concrete islands at the railroad crossing, bike boxes on B Street, a 12-inch bike lane stripe throughout the corridor, green marking for bike-vehicle conflict zones, median marking at non-signalized intersections and a yield line in advance of the crosswalks at non-signalized crosswalks.
Staff notes that the initial cost of the project was estimated at just under $1 million, but with community workshops and input from the public, the council has approved additional features. These include the ADA ramps at all corners for an additional $210,000, crosswalks at the non-signalized intersections for $8000, street lights for $50,000 at non-signalized intersections, the yield line for $800, the bike stripe for $8000 and the bike markings and the boxes for $20,000.
According to the staff report, “Staff has submitted the plans and specifications to Caltrans for approval of the Request for Authorization. This approval is required prior to bidding the project in order for construction to be eligible for grant funds.”
Caltrans believes it will take about four to six weeks to issue the RFA approval. Staff would then advertise the project for construction for three weeks.
Staff believes bidding would open mid-July with construction to commence in early August.
Staff writes, “Our goal is to have most of the most disruptive construction completed prior to start of UCD’s fall session at the end of September. However, we anticipate construction continuing into October and the conversion of the current alignment to the new alignment happening in late October.”
“In an effort to move the project forward as efficiently as possible and in light of the Council recess planned for July and August, staff is asking Council to authorize the City Manager to award the contract and process necessary budget adjustments consistent with the estimated project budget shown above,” staff continues.
Should the bids come in higher than expected, staff would delay awarding a contract and return to Council at the August 27th meeting for further direction.
Staff also notes, “The Fifth Street Corridor Improvements Project is one of five City projects occurring this summer and fall that affect the Core area and the immediate vicinity. Staff is developing a public outreach strategy that includes the details of each project, including project locations, timeframe, and detours.”
The process has been marked by delays, stalling, and a series of near crises.
Critics of the redesign are concerned that by reducing traffic to a single lane in each direction, it will clog up the core of the city, slowing down traffic and hurting business. However, models show that not only will the new road design improve safety for vehicles, bikes and pedestrians, but it will also improve the flow.
The average travel time through the corridor will improve, particularly for westbound traffic, by 20 to 25 seconds, despite the fact that vehicles will move more slowly overall. The flow improvement should reduce stops and starts, saving gas, and the turn pockets will avoid some of the congestion and road hazards.
As Steve Tracy noted back in 2010, “Because the cross streets come at frequent intervals (every 320 feet) and 5th Street provides access to densely populated residential neighborhoods and our thriving downtown, drivers make a lot of left turns off of 5th. As they sit at the intersection waiting for oncoming traffic to clear, they completely block traffic flow in the left lane.”
He added, “This creates multiple hazards: those drivers may impatiently make an unsafe turn and get hit, they may be rear-ended by an inattentive driver behind them, an impatient driver may make an unsafe lane change to avoid the stopped vehicle and hit a car in the right lane, or the stopped car may block the view of a driver coming the other way who makes a left turn into the path of an unseen vehicle in the right lane.”
Council approved the Fifth Street Redesign in April of 2010. It is now three years later and the project is finally about to go for bid.
Throughout the process there has been concern about how committed staff is to the success of this project. At the same time, critical details were hammered out to make the project run more smoothly.
—David M. Greenwald reporting