My View: Road Repair is a Necessary Inconvenience


The city has been getting an earful of complaints about the road construction. I get it that it can be inconvenient to be delayed, but these road repairs have been put off so long due to lack of funding, we were at a crisis point. Not only are the repairs going to make our roads better, but they will prevent the road conditions from further declining.

Nevertheless, I have seen many complaints over the inconvenience and the city was forced to put out a release yesterday afternoon addressing the issue.

Wrote the city, “The City is in the midst of two concurrent construction projects which are impacting traffic across Davis.  The Pavement Rehabilitation Project includes improvements to six streets and the Surface Water Pipeline Project is installing water transmission lines to receive and distribute surface water to improve reliability and the quality of Davis’ water supply.”

They city notes, “Both projects have been in the planning and design phase for years. Due to funding, bidding and contracting, and construction delays, the projects unfortunately began construction during the same time frame.  It is rare for the City to experience this much concurrent construction.”

Mayor Dan Wolk issued a statement: “We have a lot of road work going on and I know its inconveniencing people as they try and make it around the city.  Believe me, I’ve heard them loud and clear.  And city staff has heard them too.”

He continued, “Right now we are focused on getting the word out about where the construction is happening. How long the work will be going on, etc.  I am sorry for the hassles this work has caused but ask for your patience and to know that in the very near future you will be driving on wonderful new roadways and drinking from a new, sustainable water supply.”

Actually I believe the mayor is being too nice here – I think the message should be: stop whining and complaining, we’re finally fixing the roads that everyone has been complaining about for so long.

Perhaps it has just been too long since we have seen road repair in Davis. I cannot honestly remember the last time real road repair occurred here.

The one thing that did have me a little puzzled is why the city would do this now, as opposed to July when there are fewer cars in the city and less places that people have to go.

Bob Clarke from Public Works made it clear the city staff “is very aware there are unhappy residents due to the construction work going on, especially the pavement maintenance work.”

He said, “The Department’s original desire was to bid the project in late winter and have a contractor on board to begin work as soon as school was out for Summer break.  Work was expected to take three months and would be done in September, only a little overlap with the start of the DJUSD school year.  “

The problem of course is that the window here is very short “while school is out and it is not long enough to complete all significant construction activity.”

Moreover, “We experienced some delays in the design phase this year and the project wasn’t put out to bid until May, which pushed the schedule back a month, leaving us to finish up at the end of October. Work began in July with the replacement of the Community Park path from the tennis courts up to Covell, then shifted to the street work in September.”

That is compounded by the fact, “This year we focused on completing some of the main arterials in the central part of Davis and clearly the traffic impacts have created a great deal of frustration with some of our community.  While construction impacts are unavoidable, staff tries to minimize them while balancing the cost of overly constrained work requirements versus the impacts to the community and the cost of the project.”

He wrote, “With the Council just recently increasing the amount of funds available for pavement maintenance, this was the first year we’ve put out a $3M+ project.  We’ve learned a few lessons from this years’ experience and will make adjustments in future contracts to reduce the impacts and not concentrate the work on key roads in one part of town.”

Mr. Clarke added that the bulk of the pavement maintenance should be significantly complete in two weeks.

As the Vanguard has been warning for years, the roadway conditions in Davis have been deteriorating to the point where a large number are on the verge of failure.

In 2013, the city learned just how bad the situation was, with streets approaching 60 PCI (Pavement Condition Index) and on the decline of about two to three points per year with no intervention. The city was originally expected to take out a bond to infuse up to $20 million into roads.

That did not happen, but the city has put together $4 million a year in general fund money and this year, for the first time, it has been able to let contracts.

The delay factor is problematic from the city’s perspective, but I think the bottom line is – and the city can’t say this, so I will – we have to deal with this problem and a few minor inconveniences are not going to harm anyone. I spent my week having to drive my kids to and from schools next to construction. It’s really not that bad as far as delays go. In the long run, we will have better roads and a smoother ride.

—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. Alan Miller

    “Davis residents are complaining about everything not being perfect for them at all times.  Reality gets in the way.”

    If people are literally just complaining about road repair as is implied, we have a serious group mental illness going on.

    If the complaints are suggestions on how to do the road work better to lessen delays, that is a different matter.

  2. Barack Palin

    it’s really not that bad as far as delays go

    It took me 40 minutes to drive from Wildhorse to downtown a couple of days ago. It’s pretty bad for us out here but I can deal with it as I’m retired.  I can’t imagine how much it’s effecting people getting to work and appointments.  What I’ve wondered is why everything all at the same time?  This doesn’t seem to be very well planned.

    After the first delay I now head backwards to Mace in order to take the freeway to go downtown.  I know my way around Davis but for newcomers it must really be a pain.


    1. David Greenwald

      The Covell road work I think is related to the water project. I don’t think they originally planned it this way, but the timeline became compressed with the delays. I think you raise a good point about knowing your way around town, if you do, you should be able to avoid the worst problems.

      1. Tia Will

         I know my way around Davis but for newcomers it must really be a pain.”

        Which brings up a suggestion if it does not already exist. An online “alternative route” source for those who are new to town so that when faced with a 30 minute delay as I was near the corner of Poleline and Covell a few days ago, they can plan an alternative routine without the guess work on which streets will move freely and which are affected by the other project.

        1. hpierce

          Uh, how do you let people who are bereft of smartphones, and only go on-line when they want/need to, that the information is on-line?  Particularly if they are new to Davis?  Just curious…

      2. zaqzaq


        I think you are wrong.  They are working on Poline/CR 102 north of Moore (which is north of Covell) on putting a line in under Poline/CR 102.  Since that line is not in yet in it would make little sense to put that in and then have to rip up Covell again.  Covel will be done well before the line is put in across Poline/CR 102.  This appears to be the city not coordinating the two projects which justifies complaints.

        1. hpierce

          No, that would be you that are incorrect, ZaqZaq.  The water line along Covell is being laid north of the pavement.  The Pole Line/ CR 102 piece is part of the same project, the timing is different.  Therefore your last sentence seems to be unfounded, so the complaints are less justified.

  3. Topcat

    I think the message should be: stop whining and complaining, we’re finally fixing the roads that everyone has been complaining about for so long.

    I’m very pleased to see the roads being fixed.  I can put up with delays for a few weeks in order to see our critical infrastructure repairs done.

    1. Anon

      Spot on!  And kudos to city staff and City Council for even entertaining any of these complaints.  The road work needs to be done; it will be done; and there are plenty of alternate routes that can be taken to avoid construction.

  4. hpierce

    Many years ago, a State DOT sent out a press release about construction/maintenance work that would cause delays.  It was captioned, “The shortest distance between two points is under reconstruction”

    The explanation has been given, including staff shortage, emerging design issues at a critical time, etc.  The choices then become, do the work as soon as we can, with all the ‘downsides’ in Sept/Oct, or wait until next summer, allowing another winter’s worth of damage/deterioration — and likely higher costs.

    We were lucky we had higher temperatures recently.  This is good for the work being performed.

    Maybe an ideal situation would have looked different, but I think a good call was made by staff to proceed as they did.  Better than waiting until next summer.

  5. keithvb

    Typical. Whine about the poor roads, then whine about the inconvenience of fixing them.

    Better to never do any repairs but always start new projects. Just like, “My house is dirty. I guess it’s time to move.”

  6. zaqzaq

    My big question on the Covell road repair is why didn’t they take it all of the way to Harper.  That portion of the road is falling apart.  It would have been less costly to just do the whole thing instead of the portion under construction.

    1. hpierce

      Uh, then they’d be closing the only access to Harper to do the work, perhaps?  You’d have preferred that?

      I don’t know, but I wouldn’t be surprised if the City may have intended to go to Harper, and had to “back off” with the late start of the work.  Maybe next summer…

  7. Frankly

    I am not complaining except for the fact that it is only because past city leaders lied and put off road maintenance and gave the funds to city union and employee group members that helped them get elected that we are facing so much at once.

    And ironically we get the excuse that those well-compensated city employees are under-staffed and unable to adequately coordinate all the construction activity.

    I would have hoped that the high price tag for city labor would at least result in high quality service.  In this case it appears we are not getting what we paid for.

    Maybe instead of current city leaders taking up staff time banning plastic bag, banning MRAPs, and securing the farmland moat around the city, we should have dedicated more time and effort to planning the construction and maintenance activities to minimize impacts to the residents.

  8. davisite4

    If we get the heavy rains that have been predicted for this winter, we will (or should be!) damn glad that the road repairs were done.

    “stop whining and complaining, we’re finally fixing the roads that everyone has been complaining about for so long.”

    Exactly.  I can’t believe it was even necessary to write about this.

  9. Robin W.

    Those of you who can’t understand the complaints are apparently lucky enough to be living in areas that are less affected by the construction. Don’t assume we are all that lucky. We currently have NO unobstructed cross-Davis route operational except Russell/Fifth St, which is always jammed. The problem is having Covell, 8th St, L Street and Pole Line all being torn up, blockaded and detoured at the same time. It took me 40 minutes to get from North Davis to South Davis at 2pm earlier this week.

    I have no problem with construction and re-routing as a general matter. But doing all of these streets at the same time has left no “alternate routes.”  I did try going down Anderson the other day through campus, hoping that getting through downtown would be easier than getting through North and East Davis but, alas, everyone else must have tried the same thing because A Street and First were completely frozen. Mid-day.  If anyone has a transporter I would love to rent it from you.

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