Can We Fix Traffic on Richards – Yes We Can


While the city believes that the Hotel-Conference Center will not impact traffic on Richards Boulevard, the same cannot be said for Nishi. Moreover, the existing roadway conditions are problematic regardless of any new development on the roadway.

It has been the Vanguard’s belief that traffic on Richards Blvd. can be solved by simply changing the habits of those who exit on Richards and head to UC Davis from I-80. By figuring out ways to encourage traffic to utilize the UC Davis/Old Davis Road or Hutchison Drive exits instead of Richards, the city can fix a huge part of the Richards Blvd. traffic without spending much in the way of resources.

And now the city council, after Tuesday, agrees. While they unanimously approved the staff recommendations, they added language to examine traffic and come back with recommendations to fix Richards Blvd.

Councilmember Brett Lee pushed for the city to utilize some funding now to fix some of these problems. He noted that, while the hotel will add a very modest amount of traffic, the concern that was brought up was “the existing situation I think for many would be considered not satisfactory and the idea was that we might come up with some ways to deal with the current situation before we even go to the current situation plus the incremental increase in traffic from the hotel.”

He noted the approval of the hotel would trigger fairly sizable developer impact fees from them in the neighborhood of $2 to $3 million. “These funds could be used for traffic mitigation,” he said. He wondered if “some of these funds could be brought forward so we could address the traffic situation or start to address the traffic situation currently.”

“It seems reasonable to start addressing the existing situation,” he said. With the money coming in, in a few years, he felt it was reasonable to bring a small amount of that forward to address the current situation with smaller impacts.

Councilmember Lucas Frerichs noted, “There is no question that traffic is an issue.” But he said, “We can work on some of these problems now.”

He said, “I also think the suggestion (about re-routing traffic) has a lot of merit. I think it would take a comprehensive educational campaign to work with the university on trying to re-route a bunch of this traffic off the Richards tunnel and the Richards Blvd. intersection and have folks that are heading to the core part of the campus… have them head to Old Davis Road and use that interchange as opposed to Richards.”

He noted when the students are back in session, “the exit ramp heading off of 80 onto northbound Richards Blvd backs almost all the way off onto the freeway, often-time in the morning, it many times backs to top of the overpass as well.”

He believes there is the ability to work with the university in a way that is “minimally expensive” to get folks to utilize another access point to the university.

Mayor Pro Tem Robb Davis said that as the Hotel-Conference Center has come forward, “what has been revealed is a longer term issue that we haven’t adequately addressed – it is causing a lot of the angst. This corridor is known.”

He said, “To me the issue of UC Davis is an empirical question. I think people intuitively believe that’s the case – I’m not doubting it. I live near there, so I do see a lot of that traffic streaming in that direction.” He added that there are some students looking for projects.

“I think there was a time – probably before when I was here – when people thought it was an absolute necessity to route that traffic through town for the vitality of the downtown. Somehow I think we have moved beyond that – now we may want to encourage traffic to go around especially if its destination is a large parking structure somewhere on campus,” he said.

He joined the call to look into signage and education as a supplementary step. He said this is clearly a problematic and a significant corridor that “we have to do some things with now.”

Rochelle Swanson added, “I would like to recommend – we own land out there – people have approached us in the past about doing a billboard and doing a partnership” to create a billboard with instructions to take these exits. “I think waiting on Caltrans is going to take forever, it’s a huge process.”

She said, worst case scenario, set aside some money to put the city’s messaging on existing billboards. “That’s a phone call tomorrow,” she said. “I want to see this item come back with the traffic piece – but have that included. It’s a really simple solution that can get up and getting moving.”

She said, “Everyone gets off and goes onto Richards Blvd. and there’s definitely a work around.”

Lucas Frerichs moved the staff recommendations 1 and 2. Rochelle Swanson added a friendly amendment for staff to come back in a few weeks with an additional report to accelerate some of the traffic and corridor options.

The motion passed 5-0.

—David M. Greenwald reporting

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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  1. keithvb

    Why don’t we fix Richards Blvd entrance to Davis?

    More lanes & a new railroad under-crossing…

    The current situation is ugly, inefficient and unfriendly to bikes.

        1. Frankly

          Anon, you repeat this quite a bit and I understand your point, but I think there is a glaring problem with it.  The people of this city have prevented peripheral retail with an argument to keep the downtown viable.  So, most of us have to travel downtown to shop.  This is a contributing factor to the traffic coming downtown.

          Those that oppose peripheral retail while also opposing a widening of the Richards Blvd. underpass are basically hurting residents that have to travel downtown to do business… and they are hurting the businesses and reducing the potential sales tax revenue we would otherwise earn (because with the bottleneck people with drive to other communities to shop instead of going to downtown Davis.)

          Have you noticed the changes in the mix merchants located downtown over the years? Do you like that migration away from retail shopping to more food, drink and entertainment?   If you like it, then by all means continue to oppose changes that make it easier to drive to and from the downtown.

    1. dlemongello

      I don’t mean to sound pompous but I suggested this about a million times (yes of course not a million) when the issue of blasting Richards open was up for a vote to the tune of like 10 million dollars in the past.

      First of all, where is all that traffic going to go once it gets through Richards more quickly.  The answer, nowhere fast. The free right turn lane they put in worked wonders by the way. It was just the ease up that was needed without overdoing it.

      Second, you call it ugly, I call it small and a bit charming in a throwback kind of way.

      So, how to get people to use what I call the ghost exit/on ramp to I-80 at Old Davis Road. Retraining is a hard thing to do and that is what needs to be done. If the sign on I-80 westbound still directs traffic to Richards for UC Davis as it did at the time of the last talk of all this, changing that certainly would not hurt.  Or more specifically a sign saying for UC Davis use Old Davis Road exit might start to change things slowly but surely.

        1. Jim Frame

          At one point way back when there was a proposal to install a gate on A Street south at First Street to divert UCD traffic to the Old Davis Road interchange, at least during commute hours.  I don’t know if it’s feasible, but it’s an intriguing concept.

  2. Anon

    Council member Lee had it exactly right, when he noted the hotel is not going to cause much more in the way of traffic problems, the problems already exist.  The city needs to make efforts toward repairing the current existing issues that don’t cost much money, and preferably sooner than later, e.g. reaching out to Dutch Bros. to see if they would be amenable to right turns only into their establishment.  Our city’s Public Works Dept. is very good at that sort of thing.  Way-finding is a critical part of the city’s Transportation Implementation Plan.  It is a relatively inexpensive method of reducing traffic congestion.  I loved Council member Swanson’s idea of putting up a sign specific to directions on how to find UCD on I-80 to redirect traffic away from Richards by a sign that states if you are headed to UCD, take Old Davis Road or the Russell exit.  Thanks to David Greenwald for introducing the idea of re-routing traffic at public comment during last night’s City Council meeting.  It moved the discussion in the right direction.

  3. dlemongello

    The part of campus that encourages the use of Richards is of course the closest to 1st and A, but those are large parking lots that serve people who drive to work in that eastern part of campus. Others probably use Richards out of old habit even though there has been a lot of reconfiguration of the Old Davis Road area since Mondavi went in that really would encourage use of the next exit west.  Certainly a gate at 1st and A would divert much of that traffic.  Only the lot that runs from A toward B along 1st would still be accessible, and I guess I think should be, since that really is much more direct.  The farther into campus you go, the less excuse to use Richards.

  4. Alan Miller

    It has been the Vanguard’s belief that traffic on Richards Blvd. can be solved by simply changing the habits of those who exit on Richards and head to UC Davis from I-80.

    And it’s Alan C. Miller’s belief that you can cure alcoholism by simply asking all the alcoholics to stop drinking.

  5. Alan Miller

    keithvb:  Why don’t we fix Richards Blvd entrance to Davis?

    All of you discussing this need to look at the Gateway Arch plan.  It is excellent.  I fully support the Gateway Arch. 

    The Gateway Arch proposal incorporates widening the entrance and exits to the tunnel, while keeping the tunnel intact and adding another bike tunnel on the Olive Drive side, which will mitigate greatly the loss of the ped/bike crossing due to the railroad fence, as Olive drive residents won’t have to cross Richards twice to get to downtown, saving five minutes on average.  For traffic, the flow is greatly increased by having turn lanes added in all directions which take those leaving the tunnel into additional lanes, increasing auto capacity.  The arch itself, over the tunnel entrance on the Olive side, takes pedestrians and bikes out of the Richard’s intersection itself.  If a path were continued SW along the railroad, where as easement already exists, a direct connection to the arboretum bike path could be made, keeping most bikes of West Olive.

    If you aren’t familiar with the Gateway Arch proposal, study it, love it, support it.  It meets the needs of autos, bikes and pedestrians, meets some of the concerns due to the development of the Hotel Conference Center and Nishi, respects the historic tunnel, and increases auto capacity without increasing the lanes through the tunnel itself.

    It is, in a word, brilliant.

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