Will Fifth Street Project Finally Commence?

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5thStreetDwithBusLogosmall.jpg

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

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About The Author

David Greenwald is the founder, editor, and executive director of the Davis Vanguard. He founded the Vanguard in 2006. David Greenwald moved to Davis in 1996 to attend Graduate School at UC Davis in Political Science. He lives in South Davis with his wife Cecilia Escamilla Greenwald and three children.

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17 thoughts on “Will Fifth Street Project Finally Commence?”

  1. hpierce

    [quote]Throughout the process there has been concern about how committed staff is to the success of this project. [/quote]Interesting spin. I believe it is more accurate to say [quote]how [s]committed[/s][u]convinced[/u] staff is to the [s]success[/s][u]wisdom[/u] of this project[/quote]The train have left the station… I believe, after professionally reviewing many ‘road diet’ projects, and seeing where some have succeeded, and others have failed so miserably that they were reversed, that the Fifth Street application will fall into the latter category. Given the time, effort, money that has been, or will be expended, I sincerely hope I am wrong. However, I am convinced that if it fails, its proponents will blame staff rather than the applicability of the concept on this particular corridor.

  2. David M. Greenwald

    Well I think you’re wrong, but staff has made your other observation a forgone conclusion with the way it was handled almost from the onset.

  3. Michael Harrington

    I personally spent many hours studying the specific data and modeling used by staff to support their contention 10 years ago that Steve Tracy’s plan would not work, and discovered the data and analysis were fraudulent. It’s a strong word, but I saw it myself.

    Since then, the public works staff have used allocated “study” money to pay for their positions, justify their work product.

    Steve’s plan 13 years ago would have worked, and worked fine. It still will.

    Meanwhile, I have lived and worked right by the 5th and D St intersection. Every time there is an accident there, and there are many, I view that property damage and injuries to be morally laid at the feet of public works staff.

    Over and over, the CC has told them to make the project happen, and staff do everything possible to torpedo the plan.

  4. Michael Harrington

    Steve can provide details, but staff has burned up most if not all of a large grant that Steve helped the City to get to MAKE THE PROJECT HAPPEN. Instead, staff burned it up in unnecessary CEQA studies and re-hashing plans over and over. As usual, there is no accountability.

  5. keithvb

    Imagine what we could do with $1.9 million to repair the streets and sidewalks in this town.
    Seems like we are, once again, wasting money.
    We really need a city council that is not fiscally challenged.

  6. Davis Progressive

    “Imagine what we could do with $1.9 million to repair the streets and sidewalks in this town.”

    well for starters we wouldn’t have $1.9 million since $1.2 million are coming from SACOG and the like grants that we wouldn’t get from repaiing the streets and sidewalks. and second, the $700K remaining would not get us very far. and third, in the long run this will likely save a lot of money in terms of accidents and fuel idle costs.

  7. stracy

    First, some important corrections: This isn’t the “Steve Tracy” plan. It’s the community’s plan. This design has been in the Davis General Plan for 20 years. And City staff was directed by the City Council to proceed with reconfiguring the street “without further delay” on September 8, 2009. Not in April of 2010. Finally, the model exercises show a travel time reduction for a round trip in the corridor to be about 45 seconds, slightly longer than the current time one direction, and much faster in the other.

    Since the committee of residents working on the Mobility Element put this redesign into the General Plan, there have been roughly 1,000 accidents in the 5th Street corridor, from A to L Street. Twenty percent of all accidents in the Corridor involve pedestrians or bicyclists. Their vulnerability is made starkly clear by the statistic that over 40% of the injuries are to people on foot or on a bicycle. Protecting those vulnerable users of the street was clearly stated as a priority when the project was approved in 2009:

    “WHEREAS, safety along the Fifth Street Corridor has become an increasingly significant concern to the community at-large, particularly as it relates to bicycle and pedestrian facilities and safety along the corridor; and implementing traffic calming and bicycle and pedestrian safety enhancements to this corridor, without further delay, is believed to be in the best interest of the overall health, safety,and welfare of the community…”

    This is such a highly regarded solution to corridors like the current 5th Street design, and has been utilized for so long in so many places that studies like staff put us (and our budget) through are just not done any more.

    So hpierce, you say you have been “professionally reviewing” a bunch of road diets, and that some “…have failed so miserably they were reversed…”? Here’s your chance. List them for us. I have studied and worked in this field for almost 35 years, and I have a road diet list consisting of one-half of a single project that was reversed. My other list has dozens that have succeeded, so many that I’ve quit looking for them.

    So step up, please. Show us your list.

    By the way, I was a volunteer on a UCD before/after study of the 5th Street Corridor the last two weeks, counting bicyclists and pedestrians. My assignment was the intersection of Russell and A Street. Last Wednesday morning I was tracking a young woman riding westbound on Russell Boulevard. As she rode across A Street a driver made an unsafe and rushed left turn and ran down the bicyclist I was watching. This young student from Central Europe, studying English at UCD, was badly injured while riding legally across an intersection with a green light. In front of City Hall in the self-anointed Bicycle Capital of America, where the bike lanes exist only on the map in the General Plan.

    Let’s get this done before somebody dies.

  8. hpierce

    [quote] This isn’t the “Steve Tracy” plan. It’s the community’s plan. This design has been in the Davis General Plan for 20 years. [/quote]Hmmmm… and who was the vocal advocate for putting it into the GP? Seem to remember it was a Sacramento “planner” who lives in davis…

  9. hpierce

    [quote]So hpierce, you say you have been “professionally reviewing” a bunch of road diets, and that some “…have failed so miserably they were reversed…”? Here’s your chance. List them for us. I have studied and worked in this field for almost 35 years, and I have a road diet list consisting of one-half of a single project that was reversed. My other list has dozens that have succeeded, so many that I’ve quit looking for them.

    So step up, please. Show us your list. [/quote]

    You show everyone yours, and I’ll show you mine. I did my research years ago, and when done, did not feel it necessary to keep all my documentation. I do recall that one in Washington State actually had the number of crashes, injuries, and deaths dramatically increased, but I’m sure you’d be the first one to “admit” that this was due to the resistance of professional staff.

  10. stracy

    Don. It took two hearings for the designs to be in a condition for the Council to approve them.

    The “next to final” designs put into the first staff report used images of buses and cars in left turn lanes that were enlarged in some cases as much as ten percent to appear more squeezed into the new lane widths than they really will be. It may not seem like a big deal, but this subversive supersizing made the buses on the renderings look nearly a full foot wider than they really are.

    Also, only two dozen buses a day turn left off of 5th Street anywhere in the corridor, and only at a single location: eastbound 5th Street onto northbound F Street. That intersection sees roughly 25,000 vehicles per day, so a bus in the left turn lane (one-tenth of one percent of all traffic) is not the representative vehicle to show in the designs, or even design for.

    Finally, prior to that Council hearing, all parties interested in the street (bicycle advocates, neighborhood representatives, Unitrans, City staff from multiple departments, etc.) held lengthy meetings twice over two weeks working out the details. After a compromise all parties were pledged to embrace was in place, staff took width out of the bike lanes on both sides of 5th Street for a 4-block distance without any discussion, or any renderings that in the record or available to the City Council that showed that reduction in bicyclist safety.

    The compromise fell apart in front of the City Council that night because of these actions on the cross section renderings of the buses and the missing bike lane width.

    As a result, the final renderings that were approved by the City Council at a meeting two weeks later were prepared not by staff, and not by either consultant to the project, but by proponents. They are accurately drawn, and they accurately show the compromise renegotiated at the second round of stakeholder meetings.

    I’m sending a pdf of the staff report with those images to you.

  11. hpierce

    Re-iterating… ‘the train has left the station’.. the city will do the project, and will do all it can to have it succeed. Those involved should take either the credit for the ‘panacea’ or take responsibility for the negative results. We’ll see.

    Always loved the argument, when a vocal group wants something, to state “how many children must die” unless they get their way.

  12. hpierce

    [quote]Also, only two dozen buses a day turn left off of 5th Street anywhere in the corridor, [b]and only at a single location: eastbound 5th Street onto northbound F Street[/b].[/quote]Believe this to be untrue. A line turns left at L (1 hour headways, except at “peak” when they at least double that (sometimes with “sweeper” buses). “Within” the corridor, unless one is being VERY creative.

  13. Don Shor

    Thanks, Steve. Here they are for anyone else who wants ’em:
    [url]http://Davismerchants.org/vanguard/Oct2012FifthStCorridorStripingExhibitsALL.pdf[/url]
    [url]http://Davismerchants.org/vanguard/Oct2012StaffReport.pdf[/url]

  14. stracy

    hpierce. I did not bring this idea forward. I would love to be able to take the credit for it, but I doubted such a thing could succeed at first myself. Since then I’ve stood at many road dieted streets, driven those corridors, ridden bikes along them, crossed on foot, and seen business activity and property values soar along them. They work.

    I just don’t buy the “Oh, it’s true but I forget which ones were failures and the dog ate my notes” argument, and nobody else should. If you can not document your statements, they don’t deserve to be posted here as fact. Please consult the excellent “Road Diet Handbook” by Jennifer Rosales of Parsons Brinkerhof.

    The 5th Street corridor runs from A to L. A lot will change at 5th and F, where the rendering showed a supersized bus. Not a thing will change on the east side of L, where the A Line runs. Those westbound buses turn left onto southbound L Street from an existing left turn pocket, do not enter the corridor, and will be unaffected by the redesign. I don’t have to be creative in defining the corridor, the funding agencies have done that for us. None of this money can be spent east of L Street, as your definition suggest.

    My cardiologist just called, and wants me to quit responding to attempts to alter the facts with untrue and unsupported statements.

  15. keithvb

    [quote]well for starters we wouldn’t have $1.9 million since $1.2 million are coming from SACOG and the like grants that we wouldn’t get from repaiing the streets and sidewalks. and second, the $700K remaining would not get us very far. and third[/quote]

    Yup. That’s the way it always is. Money in the wrong account, not enough, etc, etc.
    Always a way to start a new project instead of doing needed maintenance.
    New projects are so much more fun.

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