Fifth Street Project Finally Commences

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The city, after years of discussion, debate, some would say delay and obstruction, has finally commenced the Fifth Street Corridor project between A and L Streets.  According to a release, construction began on October 7 at A Street and will work toward L St.

“This is the largest of the City of Davis’ upcoming roadwork projects,” the city said in a press release. “Some lane and sidewalk closures are expected in the next seven weeks, but full street closures are not anticipated.”

The project reduces the number of motor vehicle travel lanes from four to two lanes between B and L streets, to accommodate new bike and center turn lanes, the release continued.

The project also improves and adds access ramps at intersection corners, provides additional striped crosswalks, streetlights and pedestrian activated signals (at C and J intersections). It will upgrade traffic signals at A, B and L, and will include new signals at the F and G intersections to accommodate new lane configurations. In addition, an emergency traffic signal will be added at E Street, providing access to the Fire Station.

The contractor, Vanguard Construction Services of Livermore, began cutting curbs to complete ADA ramp installation, and will place conduits and foundations for street lighting. This phase will be done – weather permitting – just before Thanksgiving. Most of the lane closures will be in effect during the concrete work.

Traffic signal work is expected in January, followed by final striping. If weather permits, completion is expected by the end of that month. Funding for this project is mostly from grants from the Sacramento Area Council of Governments, Highway Safety Improvement Program and Community Development block grants, with some local funds.

The redesign seeks to improve safety through the fifth street corridor, both by adding complete street road features such as bicycle lanes, medians, turn pockets and safer pedestrian crossings, as well as improving traffic flow through a reduction in lanes from four to two, which will slow down traffic but also allow it to flow more smoothly.

Currently, there are safety concerns with the speed, the difficulty of left turns both on and off the road, and the lack of safe pedestrian crossing opportunities and bike lanes.

“The Initial Study analyzed the project and determined that potential environmental impacts were less than significant,” according to a 2011 staff report.

“Potential impacts to emergency response plans and traffic during the project construction will be mitigated through a Construction Traffic Control Plan,” the report finds.

One of the concerns is the impact of construction on the fire station located in the heart of the project area.  According to city staff, “The plan will ensure emergency access through the corridor during the construction. A further Mitigation Measure requires the project design to include improvements for fire engine access after completion of the project.”

The Initial Study concluded that “impacts to the roadway system resulting from changed level or service or hazards would be less than significant.”

However, staff added, “Although there are no traffic impacts under CEQA, staff is very aware of neighborhood concerns about ‘cut-through’ traffic and its impacts on local streets. Staff is also concerned that delays along the corridor would result in drivers making inappropriately risky moves, which would increase the risk of collisions with other vehicles, bicyclists, and pedestrians.”

Staff recommends two additional mitigation measures to address these concerns.

First, “After construction, the City shall monitor trips and speeds in adjacent neighborhoods and parallel streets, along with travel times along the corridor. If cut-through traffic increases to unacceptable levels as a result of the project, the City shall develop and implement a neighborhood traffic plan to reduce speeds and trips in the residential neighborhoods.”

Second, “After construction, the City shall monitor collisions at unsignalized intersections along the corridor. If it is determined that the unsafe movements have increased to unacceptable levels as a result of the project, the City shall develop and implement an intersection management plan to reduce unsafe movements.”

After a series of compromises and mitigation measures, the council finally gave the project the green light earlier this year and now the construction has finally commenced.

—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 “Fifth Street Project Finally Commences”

  1. Growth Izzue

    [quote]Staff is also concerned that delays along the corridor would result in drivers making inappropriately risky moves, which would increase the risk of collisions with other vehicles, bicyclists, and pedestrians.”[/quote]
    [quote]First, “After construction, the City shall monitor trips and speeds in adjacent neighborhoods and parallel streets, along with travel times along the corridor. If cut-through traffic increases to unacceptable levels as a result of the project, the City shall develop and implement a neighborhood traffic plan to reduce speeds and trips in the residential neighborhoods.”

    Second, “After construction, the City shall monitor collisions at unsignalized intersections along the corridor. If it is determined that the unsafe movements have increased to unacceptable levels as a result of the project, the City shall develop and implement an intersection management plan to reduce unsafe movements.”
    [/quote]

    More speed bumps and stoplights, oh yeah!

  2. Growth Izzue

    [quote]Staff is also concerned that delays along the corridor would result in drivers making inappropriately risky moves, which would increase the risk of collisions with other vehicles, bicyclists, and pedestrians.”[/quote]

    Weren’t we all sold that this would make travel times shorter?

  3. Frankly

    I am starting to make my list of all the proponents for this silly idea so once the dust settles on all the difficulty caused by the construction effort we will know who to blame for the ensuing mess.

    I think that…

    Downtown business will suffer with few shoppers from peripheral neighborhoods due to the greater difficulty getting to downtown.

    Neighborhoods will suffer greater traffic from people attempting to bypass the logjams.

    Bikes and pedestrians will be no safer.

    Everyone will be more frustrated.

    This is my expectation. If I am wrong I will admit it. Let’s see if the 5th street road diet proponents will admit it if I am right. I somehow doubt it… because frankly I don’t think they really care about the problems it will cause. Their goal is to make Davis less car friendly… and with this they will succeed.

  4. Davis Progressive

    “Weren’t we all sold that this would make travel times shorter? “

    the way it works according to the model is that the speeds are slower but the flow and timing of the lights will decrease the travel time. but if you are driving at 23 mph, it may feel like it’s slower which is why impatient drivers may jump to side streets.

    there should not be logjams. the current set up is far worse, because you have to sit through a two minute light cycle when there is no traffic in the north-south direction – even at five am. it’s absurd.

  5. Alan Miller

    The perspective of those criticizing the project is from a automobile-centric point-of-view. I drive, bike and walk this corridor. I consider this project the greatest thing to happen for Davis transportation since the bike tunnel was built under the railroad tracks and I-80. Long before this was proposed for 5th Street, I was aware of the boulevard design and the ability to move traffic as fast yet safer through the same corridor by using one lane with associated turnouts. This is not immediately obvious and may seem counter-intuitive, however there are many real-world examples and most of them increase safety and do not impede travel time. I believe this design will work for 5th Street, for all forms of transport.

    Fifth Street is a death trap for bicycles, it is also the missing link for a central bicycle path that is otherwise continuos from Mace to Lake Boulevard, but completely treacherous in the center city. This isn’t a theory, there are many documented bicycle accidents between A and L Streets, and a high rate of car collisions due to lane dodging when someone stops to turn and someone else makes a fast move to avoid. The top speed will be reduced but travel time I believe will remain the same — we will actually get to see if this turns out to be true. While I am glad the city has contingencies for cars trying to avoid 5th and for cars making dangerous moves, these things already occur due to the current design, and my belief is neither of these concerns will increase and may even decrease.

    For bicycles, this design is nothing short of fantastic. For pedestrians, it will be so much safer to cross 5th, and should make the north and south neighborhoods from 5th feel more united and pedestrian friendly. I will no longer fear for my life when riding down 5th Street on a bicycle. For those of you who think bicycles shouldn’t be on 5th street, I agree, we should have our own parallel, grade separated corridor. Since there is no land for that, nor tens of millions of dollars for such a project, I remind y’all that bicycles have the right to travel on roads, and automobiles don’t have the right to say they shouldn’t be there because they don’t want them there. Going three blocks up to 8th is impractical, 4th Street ends at the Park, and going two blocks down to 3rd and passing through six stop signs isn’t a side trip that most bicycles cherish either. The reconfiguration of 5th Street should have been done 30-40 years ago, and the good news is it is happening.

    For those who only see this from a car point of view, do you not, as I do, have friends that have been hit by cars on bicycles? I have several friends who have been hit by cars, one of whom was killed and a few more who where struck hard and it is a miracle they were not killed. One must look at roads as space for all modes of travel, and remember those of you who only drive you have two tons to kill with and a metal shell to protect you; bicycles and pedestrians do not. I am looking forward to driving through the corridor without having to dodge a left-turning car that stopped in front of me; in bicycling through the corridor without having to ride on the ridge between the gutter and the asphalt while cars pass inches away; and walking from the south side of Old East Davis to the North side of Old East Davis, or from Old North to Downtown, without having to cross four lanes of traffic without any pedestrian friendly facilities.

    Thank you to all who have been persistent and moved this forward. This project will enhance the lives of many people, and over the years will save the lives (and limbs) of a few bicyclists who will never know they are alive (or whole) because of it. Goodbye to 5th Street as it is and good riddance! Please drive and bicycle safely during the construction!

  6. davehart

    Frankly: As a driver and a bike rider, I am an enthusiastic supporter of this plan. So, please spell my name right when you prepare your list of “proponents to blame” because it’s okay with me that you know my name so that you can properly assign blame anonymously.

  7. Frankly

    Jim Frame and davehart – got you on the list. My office is downtown between 4th and 5th… so, my employees will certainly let me know how this new design works or does not work. They are sure complaining loudly already about the existing construction impacts and the loss of parking spaces being used by the crews doing the work. All of us ride bikes to work periodically… some more than others… but none of us ever ride down 5th street.

    Alan Miller – You seem to have confiirmed exactly what I suspected… that this is all about bike and pedestrians at the expense of drivers. I don’t disagree that it is dangerous for cyclists. So is Watt Ave.

    I am wondering why we just didn’t use the grass easement between the sidewalk and street to make a bike lane?

  8. Alan Miller

    “Alan Miller – You seem to have confiirmed exactly what I suspected… that this is all about bike and pedestrians at the expense of drivers.”

    F-nonymous–I rarely reply, but I did not say that. Reality once built is the only real test. I believe average transit time A to L will be about the same, I shall see and so you shall see. As a driver I look forward to this, as a single through lane with turn lanes is superior and safer, and the “lane dodging” so common on 5th will cease.

    Your discounting of the bicycle safety aspect relative to a perceived possible “expense” to drivers is mysterious. I am not anti auto, I own one. I also do not consider that auto has some God-given superiority as a mode, while I do consider than bicycles and pedestrians are at a great disadvantage safety-wise due to the lack of weight and metal shell. Fifth Street exists today in a [u]failure[/u] in terms of safety and mode share, and it is one of our most important streets.

  9. Davis Progressive

    alan: i agree with most of your comment and there is considerable evidence that through-put will increase, but still i am left response to the person you respond to – so what if bikes and peds are advantaged at the expense of autos, why do autos get primacy especially, especially as it relates to safety (as you point out).

  10. Frankly

    [i]Your discounting of the bicycle safety aspect relative to a perceived possible “expense” to drivers is mysterious.[/i]

    I’m not discounting it. I am saying common sense should take hold at some point to not ride a bike on a congested auto artery. There are alternative routes that are much safer.

    When I see people riding a bike on the non-existent shoulder of 5th street between B and G, I have an instant thought that I might be experiencing the modern equivalent of natural selection.

    The solution I would have preferred is to widen the sidewalks into bike and pedestrian paths, or widen the street to make room for bikes.

    I am expecting we will have fewer car-bike accidents from the brush-by collisions, and more that are more serious from turns into on-coming traffic.

    Cars cannot drive on bike paths for safety reasons. It seems reasonable to prevent bikes from riding down 5th street between B and G because that too is unsafe.

  11. Davis Progressive

    “Cars cannot drive on bike paths for safety reasons. It seems reasonable to prevent bikes from riding down 5th street between B and G because that too is unsafe.”

    reasonable perhaps, but not legal. again, why are we automatically giving cars primacy here?

  12. odd man out

    Frankly wrote: “Bikes are automatically given primacy on bike paths.”

    Not really. In the city of Davis, almost all (maybe all) “bike paths” are actually “shared use paths” to be used by both pedestrians and cyclists.

    Pedestrians are not allowed on “bike paths” if and only if there is an adjacent separate pedestrian facility (sidewalk). On the UC Davis campus, that situation does occur in some locations, e.g. Sprocket Bikeway between the roundabout just southeast of Bixby Hall all the way to California Ave. But, there are many paths on campus that must be shared by both modes.

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