Mayor Pro Tem Robb Davis, taking advantage of the university’s LRDP (Long Range Development Plan) planning process, pushed through a motion on Thursday to “instruct staff to work with UC Davis during the LRDP process to better understand current traffic flows to and from campus during peak hours and develop options for discouraging arriving and departing traffic from the Richards underpass.”
The council would unanimously approve that addition, moving a step closer in attempting to deal with traffic problems on the Richards corridor.
In the meantime, Councilmember Brett Lee put forward another proposal that might move the thinking outside of the box in looking into creating an L Street to Olive Drive connection via an underpass under the railroad tracks to allow traffic to avoid Richards altogether.
Councilmember Lee noted that a longer-term solution would be a car-ped-bike connection from Olive to L St. “I’d like the council to ask staff to look into that,” he said. “It might cost a nominal amount of money… just to come up with a basic, conceptually is the idea possible, and then an basic order of magnitude cost, is this $5 million, $10 million, $20 million? Where are the numbers here?”
“We have a lot of projects proposed for this area here, and if there were a connection from Olive to L, it might alleviate problems at the Richards-Olive intersection, but it might also address… connectivity for the existing Olive Dr residents to the rest of the downtown area and the rest of Davis. Right now it’s not an ideal situation.”
What he was proposing is not a full-blown engineering study but rather something that is more than a back-of-the-envelope sort of thing.
Public Works Director Bob Clarke felt the idea was possible. He said, “That is something I looked at eight or so years ago, that Olive Drive area has always been a challenge for access. We haven’t done a detailed analysis of it – frankly I just looked at kind of horizontal-vertical geometry of getting an under-crossing of the railroad tracks between L and Olive.”
“From a pure roadway geometry perspective, I think it’s feasible – the cost implications (including) utility relocations, I haven’t costed it out,” he said. He said the challenge would be to lower the grade of Olive Drive east and west, and lower L St and Second Street, and he said that’s a lot of retaining wall, earth work and utility relocation.
“We could do the analysis and get a better handle of what the cost implication is,” he said. “But from a purely transportation aspect, I think it’s feasible to squeeze it in. It wouldn’t be the way you’d design it in a green field environment, but I think it is feasible.”
Councilmember Lee said, “The reason this is interesting is not for current conditions. It’s interesting because we have several fairly substantial proposals – my goal is to not have these projects degrade the traffic. The current conditions are not ideal.”
He added, “I’m actually heartened by the fact that the signals are not timed (and coordinated),” citing that when they are timed and coordinated the situation will improve.
Earlier he suggested staff look into the idea of a sign providing information which would guide people on I-80 to the most efficient access point for campus.
Matt Williams, during public comment, stated that we need to decrease the demand on the current lanes of traffic. He noted that students and others exiting on Richards and going to campus “are adding demand that really doesn’t make sense.”
He, like Councilmember Lee, suggested a westbound I-80 sign that would allow them to divert traffic to more efficient ways to get onto campus. Much like existing signs which suggest a certain amount of minutes to a given exit, such a sign system might show commuters to campus the most efficient route to campus.
“We need to modify people’s behavior,” he said, noting we need to have studies as to what travel times are and what backups do.
Lucas Frerichs noted, “One of the things that have come up has been an educational campaign of getting people to switch the ramp – don’t get off on that ramp and clog the Richards Tunnel, get off on Old Davis Road as an example.”
He said he didn’t think it would be that difficult – a sign to get people to use alternative routes.
“Many folks are coming westbound on 80, they got off on that ramp in the mornings particularly, it backs up onto the freeway and if they were shown or it was given to them that there was a viable alternative, they would absolutely use it.”
The council now has pushed staff to work with UC Davis during the LRDP process to examine this further.
—David M. Greenwald reporting