On Monday, the city of Davis implemented the re-striping along Fifth Street between L Street and B Street. Lanes have been reduced to single lanes in each direction with bike lanes and turn pockets in place.
The Vanguard drove the road around 3 pm on Wednesday in each direction with no noticeable problems. We then held a camera out the window for a drive from L Street to B Street around 4 pm.
While there was traffic at this time, the flow was pretty good.
City staff did not report any major problems at this time, other than some confusion mid-striping on Tuesday – but the city believes that has been remedied. The city reports at this time that they are still working on signage and formalizing the striping, but believes that the overall traffic is flowing okay.
Watch the Vanguard video:
Skeptics of the redesign at this point have noted that the real test will come at 5 pm when the students are back in town and the road is filled with bicyclists and drivers sharing the road. Defenders of the redesign noted that many people would avoid Fifth Street during peak hours anyway, and that even if there is congestion the overall flow will be improved.
Two weeks ago, the city announced that the “final construction phase of the Fifth Street Improvements Project will begin mid-July. The Fifth Street corridor between A and L Streets provides a critical connection to the downtown area and UC Davis; however, the corridor has historically lacked bicycle and pedestrian facilities and an efficient roadway design.”
The city stated, “The completion of the Fifth Street improvements project will result in a safer, more attractive and efficient street for all road-users. Planned enhancements include bicycle and pedestrian facilities to engender safe, easy, and convenient access to and from the downtown area. Features include marked crosswalks, dedicated bike lanes, pedestrian-activated flashing beacons, vehicle left turn lanes, improved traffic signals and timing, and streetlights throughout the corridor.”
“The lane reduction from four lanes to two lanes will not exacerbate traffic congestion through the addition of dedicated left turn lanes, while the improved traffic signals and timing will create shorter wait times for all road users,” the city added.
“The City of Davis thanks the community for their continued patience throughout the multiple construction phases of this project. The City will work proactively to minimize construction impacts for local residents and businesses and we invite you to contact us with any questions or concerns at firstname.lastname@example.org. Residents may also visit traffic.cityofdavis.org for more information,” the city concluded.
The project, as stated, 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.
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 the bicycle lanes, medians, turn pockets and safer pedestrian crossings, as well as improving traffic flow through the 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.
Ten days ago the Vanguard reprinted a piece written by Steve Tracy in February 2009.
Mr. Tracy explained the concept:
It’s commonly called a “road diet.” This sounds like a bad term, because we usually don’t like diets, but this one leads to a healthy street. This design technique has been used in literally hundreds of similar situations across the country. Yes, there was initial opposition in many cases, but the results speak for themselves. We are aware of only two cases where the design was completely or partially undone. In fact, many cities went on from their first trial road diet to redo other streets. It works.
This design merges the two center lanes into a single lane for left turns. In time, portions of this lane can be landscaped to beautify the street. We gain a lot of flexibility by merging the left turn lanes: It provides the room to paint in the missing bike lanes. It provides for faster through travel because demand activated left turn arrows can be installed. This all fits between the existing curbs on 5th Street. It requires only paint, and some new traffic lights at F and G. The existing lights can be reused elsewhere.
Between A and B Streets, the only change would be to restripe the vehicle lanes to remove excess width, and stripe in bike lanes. Again, this all fits between the curbs. Almost 50% of the traffic coming east from UCD in the evening rush hour turns off of Russell at B, so this is the logical place to drop the extra lane which isn’t needed beyond that point.
Other communities engaged in road diet projects to address safety issues, with great results. Accident reductions often have been at or over 50%. The severity of crashes and injuries has seen an even more dramatic reduction, because vehicle speeds are lower, set by the prudent drivers at the head of the lines. Aggressive speeding is virtually eliminated.
Models run by UC Davis showed that, while traffic speeds were reduced, overall through times would be improved. We saw some of this yesterday as we drove through the section of G Street to the traffic light at B in just over a minute.
We agree that the full test will not come until the fall when students are back, but early returns look promising.
—David M. Greenwald reporting