City Looks to Improve Richards Boulevard Interchange

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Richards-Interchange

On the council agenda this week is a consent item that would allocate $160,000 in Roadway Impact Fee funds to cover the estimated costs to prepare the Project Study Report and authorize initial work on Richards Boulevard interchange improvements.

Staff writes, “The Richards Boulevard corridor is a major entry to the city of Davis as well as a key connector between South Davis and the downtown. Parts of the corridor were upgraded in the 1990s, but other areas are sub-optimal for all types of travelers.”

“Approximately 400 bicyclists and 200 pedestrians cross the Richards Boulevard interchange every day. North of I-80, between the freeway and the Richards underpass, the Richards Boulevard interchange is a four-quadrant cloverleaf,” staff continues. “The interchange configuration, in which all vehicle movements are uncontrolled, results in high vehicle speeds onto and off from the freeway ramps. These high-speed movements create a safety concern for all modes on Richards Boulevard, particularly bicyclists and pedestrians.”

“There are currently four uncontrolled conflict points between bicyclists and vehicles due to the configuration of the I-80 Westbound ramps,” they continue.

“The most severe of these weave movements occurs on northbound Richards Boulevard at the I- 80 Westbound off-ramp. Pedestrians crossing the on- or off-ramps cross high-speed vehicles in uncontrolled, unmarked crosswalks. Vehicles from the off-ramps that merge with Richards Boulevard traffic must look over their shoulders at a tight angle to judge gaps in traffic, all while paying attention to the signal at Richards Boulevard/Olive Drive and avoiding bicyclists on Richards Boulevard,” the staff report continues.

This description underplays the problem of a large quantity of traffic being forced to merge during the morning commute times into stopped traffic going through the underpass.

This creates a hazard. “Between 2003 and 2012, 15 collisions at the Richards Boulevard interchange north of I-80 resulted in an injury. Five of these collisions involved bicyclists.”

As the city has initiated public discussion over the Nishi Gateway concept, “local traffic –particularly Richards Boulevard – has risen as a key issue of public concern. In addition, regional growth which has and will continue to generate trips to and from Davis will further cause impacts to the interchange.”

The city has begun exploring options for improving the corridor, including the I-80 interchange.

Over the past decades, “the City has evaluated possible improvements to the Richards Boulevard Interchange that would eliminate the free right turns, reduce the “weave” movements, and improve comfort and safety for users of various modes.”

One option that staff suggests “is a “tight diamond” with on/off ramps similar to those on the north side of the Mace Boulevard interchange. Improvements to the Richards interchange are included in the SACOG Metropolitan Transportation Plan, but unfunded and with a current schedule date of 2020 (planning) and 2022 (construction).”

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Staff adds, “In early 2014, the City requested federal planning funds for a series of potential improvements to the corridor, including design for the interchange improvements. Unfortunately, the application was not chosen for funding. Staff is proposing that the City authorize initial work on the interchange improvements to facilitate future applications for funding and provide cost estimates for evaluation with future CIP decisions.”

The development of a Project Study Report (PSR) project initiation document provides a key opportunity for Caltrans and involved regional and local agencies to achieve consensus on the purpose and need, scope and schedule of a project, staff writes.

They add, “Developing a Project Study Report is a collaborative effort. The PSR is used to estimate and program the capital outlay support cost necessary to complete the studies and work needed during the Project Approval and Environmental Document phase.

“The Cooperative Agreement begins the Caltrans review process of a proposed project. The City would be required to provide a $30,000 deposit to cover Caltrans costs for reviewing the PSR. Any funds not used during the review will be refunded to the City.”

Improvements are definitely needed with the interchange, as the current configuration makes very little sense. However, part of the problem is also the quantity of traffic being pushed under the Richards underpass and that will only increase should voters approve Nishi – depending on how its traffic models are developed.

From anecdotal observation, it appears that a large quantity of traffic heading through the underpass turns left onto 1st Street and either onto campus or up B Street. Finding an alternative pathway to campus might be a better approach in the long-term to the traffic congestion.

However, regardless of traffic congestion, the configuration of traffic that exits onto Richards and heads northbound needs to be altered.

—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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19 thoughts on “City Looks to Improve Richards Boulevard Interchange”

  1. Frankly

    On the council agenda this week is a consent item that would allocate $160,000 in Roadway Impact Fee funds to cover the estimated costs to prepare the “____” and would authorize initial work on Richards Boulevard interchange improvements.

    Let’s have a contest to guess what word is missing.   I have a few:

    “meal”

    “protest”

    “upgrades to Dan Wolk’s house”

  2. South of Davis

    The best way to get people off the Richards over crossing would be to use eminent domain to make the bike trail follow Putah Creek and have a straight shot under 80 (not the way it is now where you need to walk or ride out to Research Park Drive).

    The city could also get a lot of bikes off the overpass if they would just make a trail to connect Richards with W Chiles Road (and add a sign that says UCD this Way).

    1. Alan Miller

      Amen.  The lack of a trail nearly killed a friend who was T-boned on Research Park Drive on her bike.  The bike trail needs to extend through, north or south of the Rust Property; the current detour is sheer folly.

      1. hpierce

        Alan… right of way across the Rust property has been identified, years ago.  Progress was made.  Perhaps a consideration not to impose on the elder Rusts’s privacy until they no longer lived there was a consideration.  It will happen. I suggest no-one should get too self-righteous on this part of the issue. Be human.

  3. Davis Progressive

    “The best way to get people off the Richards over crossing would be to use eminent domain to make the bike trail follow Putah Creek and have a straight shot under 80 (not the way it is now where you need to walk or ride out to Research Park Drive).”

    you can ride down olive drive now to get to it.

    1. South of Davis

      I was talking about heading north  to downtown or UCD from South Davis.  If the point is to “get people off the Richards over crossing” why would you want people ride over the Richards over crossing to get to the bike trail (rather than make a connection to W Chiles so they can ride “under” W Chiles and I80?

    1. South of Davis

      Dave wrote:

      > The bicycle facility portion of the $41M improvement is $6M.

      If we could fix up Richards for an even $40 million it would “only” cost every one of the ~15,500 residential parcels in town about $2,500 each (that we could borrow so we can make construction companies and unions that donate to politicians rich today while sticking our kids and future elected officials with the huge bill years from now)…

  4. Miwok

    They are going to rebuild Watt/50 AGAIN?

    If people want to be safe, the pedestrians and bikes need to be on separate paths from vehicles. Imagination and will is key. These partial improvements the last few decades only shift the problem somewhere else in the traffic flow.

    The recent talk is to slow down everyone in vehicles instead of getting a safe pathway for bikes and people walking. The tunnel is not a safe place on that sidewalk with buses and trucks. I have walked it.

    Why not think out of the box? Get those bikes coming over the Richards bridge, keep them up in the air all the way over the train. Landing on the other side in downtown can be Third or Fourth street instead of First Street. See?

    Put in moving sidewalks for the sad trek over that freeway to South Davis to encourage people to use it. Keep the tunnel unless you want to widen the whole thing for better traffic in and out of town. You can even start the trek before the Research Park intersection, above the fray. Unless you tear out Cafe d’Italia and In’nOut, you can’t make the entrance and exits bigger, which I doubt anyone “studying” it will even think of. Give the Cafe a spot in Nishi, and Move the In’n’Out to draw traffiic away from that intersection, like should have been thought of in the first place.

    Davis has always tried to stuff ten pounds of potatoes in a five pound sack, and now it is like Sacramento, with only a few bridges over the American River, which making them wider does not improve commuters plight. This terrorizes bikes riders and walkers. The best thing in a long time was the Pole Line bridge but who uses it?

    Traffic is the opposite of water. Widening a lane will speed it up. More lanes will slow it down. Especially lanes in the same place.

    1. Dave Hart

      If you read the article, you will note the project is just being completed after two years of work.  I agree with thinking outside the box.  You will note the $6M project for the bike access is probably a lot cheaper than what you just suggested.  I don’t know what the statistics are for bike and pedestrian use of the Pole Line Road overcrossing or the dedicated crossing to the east, but they seem to get a fair amount of use whenever I’m in the vicinity.  They also cross I-80 at a narrower stretch of the highway with fewer right-of-way complications and are thus cheaper.  They are also fairly steep and thus present a challenge to most people over 40 years old.

      1. Miwok

        I don’t read the Bee since they want to charge for being read. Not worth it to read an occasional article of pablum from a Hearst wannabee.

        thank you for the synopsis. I agree Richards is steep, ergo my reason for wanting to encourage people to use the moving sidewalk idea. All ages of people use that overpass, and all hate it.

        Watt? I have seen it “rebuilt” at least three times in my life. I get the constant work on Power Inn and Watt overcrossings confused, since there always seems to be the constant widening putting more people into the mix. I try to avoid it at all costs.

    2. Alan Miller

      “Get those bikes coming over the Richards bridge, keep them up in the air all the way over the train. Landing on the other side in downtown can be Third or Fourth street instead of First Street. See? Put in moving sidewalks for the sad trek over that freeway to South Davis to encourage people to use it.”

      Because all of those ideas are insanely expensive and therefore insane.

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