Can the City Fix Richards and Olive? Council to Look at Options

Richards View 2 GE_AS

There has been a lot of focus on the Richards Boulevard traffic congestion.  Part of that discussion reemerged in the face of the Hotel Conference Center in conjunction with Nishi.  While the Nishi project would have put money into several improvements to the corridor, there is also the Richards Interchange project that would restructure the I-80 interchange, and is challenging.

With the defeat of Nishi, however, monies for those improvements might be more problematic.  Nevertheless, on Tuesday the staff will present an informational item of the Richards Blvd. – Olive Drive Corridor plan.

Back in February, council authorized city staff to initiate a circulation study and look into the possibility of a capital improvement plan.

Staff writes, “The purpose of the study was to evaluate the Richards Blvd/Olive Drive area holistically by cross-analyzing combinations of potential future growth with possible infrastructure improvements to understand the effects on transportation circulation. Circulation impacts and accompanying order-of-magnitude cost estimates will inform current and future decision-makers regarding future courses of action.”

Mark Thomas & Co  (MTCo.) conducted the infrastructure feasibility study, with Fehr & Peers performing the traffic circulation analysis.

As staff explains, “All circulation scenarios assumed cumulative year (2035) conditions including approved land uses plus proposed development projects including the Davis Hotel Conference Center, Nishi Gateway/West Olive Drive, and the Mace Ranch Innovation Center.”

“This should be considered a conservative analysis; elimination of any development project would result in proportionally better LOS at the intersections studied,” they add.


The graphic above summarizes the various proposals, their cost, feasibility and estimations on LOS and Safety improvement.

Based on this, the staff recommends the following.

Combine the Richards / I-80 Interchange and Westbound I-80 / Olive Drive Off-Ramp Closure projects

MTCo. believes, “The traffic analysis shows the project’s improvements to realign and signalize the westbound ramps to I-80 and to improve capacity at the I-80 eastbound ramps at Richards Boulevard, combined with additional improvements associated with other developments at Richards Boulevard and Research Park Drive and at Richards Boulevard and Olive Drive, would have the most beneficial impact to traffic circulation through the study area.”

Staff adds that this would improve circulation for all intersections.  “The Richards / I-80 Interchange project should be considered the City’s highest priority project due to its significant corridor circulation improvements,” staff writes.  They recommend “combining with the Westbound I-80 / Olive Drive Off-Ramp closure due to the relatively low incremental cost and neighborhood traffic calming effects.”

While this would be an expensive undertaking, staff believes “this combined project would be very competitive for State and Regional grant funding.”


Downtown Gateway Arch

MTCo. believes, “The Downtown Gateway Arch structure over Richards Boulevard would reduce potential conflicts between vehicles, bikes, and pedestrians at the intersection of Richards Boulevard and Olive Drive and directly benefit residents of the Olive Drive neighborhood to access downtown Davis and the UC Davis campus.”

However, they also conclude that “the additional tunnel beneath the UPRR tracks on the east side of Richards Boulevard would not be as beneficial as the majority of walking and biking travel from the Olive Drive neighborhood appears to be directed towards the UC Davis campus.”  They add that “it also appears the construction of a railroad shoofly would be needed prior to installing the new tunnel beneath the tracks on the east side of Richards Boulevard, making construction infeasible without damaging the existing roadway underpass.”

Staff notes, “In addition to the access improvements, the Downtown Gateway Arch presents a welcoming, signature gateway entrance into the downtown.”

While staff sees that the Gateway Arch could be teamed with the other projects, there is a cost consideration in that the total cost would be $18 million for the three projects.  While this could “be partially offset by State and Regional grant funding,” it is cost prohibitive for the city to do it alone.  Staff does not see the Gateway alone as grant-competitive “as a stand-alone project.”

Olive Drive Bicycle Facility Improvements

MTCo. believes, “Improvements to the bicycle facilities along Olive Drive would be beneficial to the neighborhood and would be best as a follow-on project to the Olive Drive Exit Ramp Closure project, which would reduce traffic volumes on the street, and the Downtown Gateway Arch project, which would improve access and safety crossing Richards Boulevard.”

However, they add that “the bicycle improvements could be pursued independently of the other projects if need for improved bicycle facilities is increased, resulting from the completion of development on the Nishi property or with the Lincoln40 project.”

Olive Drive / Train Depot Connection, Olive Drive / Pole Line Road Connection

MTCo. believes that both of these options “have merits.” They write, “The Pole Line Road Bike/Pedestrian Connection project would improve access to the US40 Bike Path from the areas north and south of I-80and the UPRR tracks.”

Meanwhile, “The Davis Transit Center Bike/Pedestrian Overcrossing option would provide better access for the residents of the Olive Drive neighborhood and the proposed Lincoln40 project to downtown.”

The higher cost of the Depot Connection “would make the Davis Transit Center Bike/Pedestrian less desirable.”

However, “If the Lincoln40 project contributes fair share funding (to) the Depot project, this cost difference may not be important and it would be more advantageous to construct this crossing prior to or concurrent with the Lincoln40 project development because the Lincoln40 parcel provides an ideal construction staging area, thus potentially reducing the construction cost.”

Staff writes that “the Olive Drive / Train Depot Connection would restore neighborhood access to downtown post-UPRR fence construction, while the Pole Line Road connection provides access to Montgomery Elementary School, reducing the bike/ped route to school from 2.6 to 1.2 miles. Grant applications were submitted to both statewide and regional Alternative Transportation Programs to fund the Olive Drive / Pole Line Road Connection facility.”

 However, they note that it was not recommended for funding in either program.

Not Recommended: Olive Drive / L Street Connection

MTCo. writes, “The L Street to Olive Drive vehicle connection is not recommended for implementation. The L Street Vehicle Connection project would not provide the anticipated traffic circulation benefits due to the rerouting of trips into downtown away from Mace Boulevard and Pole Line Road / UPRR grade crossings.”

In addition, they believe that the L Street Vehicle Connection project “would substantially alter the character of Olive Drive and surrounding neighborhood with the addition of vertical or underground structures.”

Staff writes, “This facility would shift traffic from Richards Blvd, Pole Line Rd, and Mace Blvd. It would also draw trips from central and east Davis to Olive Drive, degrading Richards/Olive intersection performance to LOS D/E, with the Richards / I-80 Interchange project. The resulting new L Street/Olive Drive intersection would operate at LOS E during the AM peak and worsens with the proposed Lincoln40 project.”

Additionally, they say “the costs associated with both connection options are high. The undercrossing is unlikely to be approved by UPRR and the costs cited in this study do not include those associated with construct(ing) a shoofly as UPRR would require no disruption in their existing operations.”

—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.

Related posts


  1. Chamber Fan

    Just imagine, had we only passed Nishi, the funding would be in place to make all of these fixes.  It is ironic that the people who wanted to save the entrance to town have ironically made it more costly to fix.

  2. Marina Kalugin

    CLOSE the tunnel to all but pedestrians and bicyclists and busses and emergency vehicles…

    build a new and real interchange….around the area of the bike overcrossing..

    remember that  fight?  circa whatever year that was?   those who could see what Richards was and would become were calling for a REAL intechange instead of what we got.

    Redirect all but local to olive and to South Davis to the UCD interchanges and MACE…..and the new interchange.

    Make more park and rides with one on Olive….

    the chamber should start shuttles aka the open trams at UCD>>>where are they?   haven’t seen then used for eons.

    and drive around the park and ride on Olive in and around downtown..right?

    Same from the campus and same from the other park and rides….

    the park and rides should be at interchanges…and there should be express busses to center of downtown and center of campus…

    This is the solution to many an ill

    Note that the Embassy suites in West Sac is either and faster to get to now from my former south davis abode…than the one proposed for OLIVE>>.

    it all depends on what time one is driving where…right?







        1. hpierce

          @ CR 103 (now known as Drummond to the south of I-80). Unless she meant the “Harrison alternative”.

          The 103 alignment was considered in the 1974 GP, both were argued about and rejected with the SDSP, newer GP, and Mace Ranch projects in the mid-late ’80’s, early ’90’s.  Obviously the time has come to revisit that all!

          If Marina could be more specific, could respond further on implications…

  3. Marina Kalugin

    PS…. Vendors would also need access and should be given restricted hours to deliver at…

    not during any rush times….

    very early am…and late at night…or a few hours here and there during morning and afternoon..

    1. Topcat

      The downtown gateway arch depiction looks like a ride at Disneyland.

      Yes, I think the “gateway arch” comes under the category of putting lipstick on a pig.  It does nothing to increase capacity and alleviate traffic backups.

      1. Chamber Fan

        Two points in disagreement.  One of the problems is getting people on bikes/ ped through that intersection safely.  This was one of the objections to Lincoln40.  Second, the downtown businesses are very concerned that the entrance to Davis looks like crap and they have gotten behind this hoping that the gateway would improve it.  I think your disparaging lipstick on the pig underestimates the fact that aesthetics matter.

        1. Marina Kalugin

          actually for those of us who hung around this area in the 60s and onward ..we find it historical and charming…right?

          Hold onto those buzz words, right?

          developers hate them….

      2. Topcat

        Second, the downtown businesses are very concerned that the entrance to Davis looks like crap and they have gotten behind this hoping that the gateway would improve it.

        I agree that the current underpass is not attractive.  My concern is on the idea of spending multiple millions of dollars on aesthetics when we have streets all over Davis that are in disrepair.  Lets fix the critical infrastructure before we try to make things look good.

        However, my opinion might be different if the downtown merchants were willing to pay the entire cost of the gateway arch project.

        1. DTDavisite

          However, my opinion might be different if the downtown merchants were willing to pay the entire cost of the gateway arch project.

          Most Downtown Merchants don’t exactly have a lot of extra cash to pay for something like this. Downtown property owners on the other hand…

  4. Marina Kalugin

    Nishi was sh@@@@@@ and the “fixes” are sh@@@@@

    have those who clog up our streets pay…..right?  Mello Roos and so on…

    like the $10 mil the city council gave away on the cannery not that long ago..

    right?   get a clue… is never what the developers are pushing…right?

  5. Marina Kalugin

    yep, get a new interchange in and then make this a lovely walkway into the main part of town….

    see above…..all way better and much more useful ideas …

    people can enjoy walking and riding their bikes and the tram on the lincoln 40    🙂

  6. Marina Kalugin

    and get UCD to go in on the costs…for the interchange…and get the chamber and developers to pay up also…especially the ones who have made millions and perhaps billions and not ever paid their fair share……..and do it RIGHT this time…   🙂


    1. Don Shor

      the chamber should start shuttles

      and get the chamber and developers to pay up also…

      “The chamber” is not a development company, nor is it a transportation agency.

      1. Marina Kalugin

        actually the chamber did sponsor lunchtime shuttle services for a while some years ago…in conjunction with UCD……because the chamber is made of up of business members who benefit from increased traffic and access it is not out of the realm of possibility

        1. Don Shor

          Assuming you’re referring to the downtown shuttle, that was the DDBA, now known as Davis Downtown, not the Chamber. If I recall, they stopped the service within a couple of years due to insufficient demand. I find a reference from 2009, nothing thereafter.
          This, by the way, is a common confusion:
          DDBA/Davis Downtown and the Chamber of Commerce are two separate entities. Davis Downtown is an assessment district. If you own property or own a business within the official downtown district, you pay an assessment. It’s mandatory, billed by the city on their behalf. Davis Downtown has a paid staff that oversees the downtown events.
          Chamber of Commerce is a volunteer organization. People and businesses who choose to belong pay dues. They sponsor events, have networking meetings, etc. They also have a paid staff, and they have a separately managed political action committee called Chamber PAC.

Leave a Reply

X Close

Newsletter Sign-Up

X Close

Monthly Subscriber Sign-Up

Enter the maximum amount you want to pay each month
Sign up for