While much has been made about the congestive nature of Richards Boulevard and plans are being made for expensive upgrades, I still believe a quick, cheap and very workable solution should be tried first – the primary problem with Richards extends beyond the Richards Tunnel to the city streets like First Street, being used to provide access to the university with peak hour traffic that is well beyond its capacity.
A large portion of traffic utilizing Richards goes north through the tunnel, left onto First St. and then either enters the campus on the southwest corner, or more of it heads up B Street, then left on Russell to access to the campus either on the north entrance – or even off La Rue on the west.
Simply put, at least some of the congestion at Richards would be alleviated if westbound vehicles utilized the UC Davis entrance rather than Richards. Unlike the millions that could be spent on some of the projects cited in the circulation study – this would be a matter of changing the signage.
It turns out that a year ago, back in November 2015, when Nishi was looking at getting on the ballot, Tim Ruff reached out to Arthur Murray of Caltrans to see if Caltrans could direct the signage to ask “westbound traffic to use Old Davis Road for UCD access such as ‘UCD 2nd Exit.’”
Mr. Murray explained that that “A sign reading ‘UC Davis, 2nd Exit’ would require placement beyond Richards Blvd North; and a sign reading ‘UC Davis, 3rd Exit’ isn’t an option.”
But, he said, “there is opportunity for advance interchange signing for the Richards Blvd IC, which may be helpful in allowing traffic to choose to exit further west versus sooner than intended.”
While “the most accurate message makes for an undesirably large roadside sign,” they could make a sign like the second one work.”
Mr. Murray says, “Sign #4B will also work, since Richards Blvd North and South are signed well, and is more practical in size for a roadside installation. The required location for sign #4B, which just happens to have sufficient ROW, is between Olive Drive and Richards Blvd North. Unfortunately, that is where sign #4 will be when replaced. “
He adds, “In summary, the District can’t install a ‘UC Davis, 2nd exit’ sign, but could look further into installing sign #4B, if the City/Downtown stake holders agree with removal of sign #4, or relocating and revising directions accordingly. This would likely be delayed until next fiscal year when there is a new allocation for signing improvements.”
Last November the council looked into changing the signage. But, from the above conversation, it appears that Caltrans would be willing and able to add some signage to direct westbound traffic past Richards to the UCD exit, but that request would have to come to from the city, and right now, they apparently have not asked for it – despite the discussion from November.
Eric Fredericks, Branch Chief, Office of Transportation Planning – South Branch, Caltrans District 3, told the Vanguard, “Caltrans understands the public’s concerns brought up in your earlier inquiry. Unfortunately, we cannot make a final decision without the approval or request by the city of Davis or Yolo County.”
He explained, “Redirecting highway and interstate traffic to a city surface street or county road must also meet the requirements by local jurisdiction including but limited to commercial vehicle access and their payloads. Once Yolo County or the City of Davis becomes involved in the process we can determine the best course of action.”
The council in September of 2015 directed staff to examine traffic and come back with recommendations to fix Richards Blvd.
Councilmember Lucas Frerichs noted at the time, “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.
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.”
So if the council directed staff to talk to Caltrans, and Caltrans seems willing to change the signage, but hasn’t heard from the city on this – something is off here.
—David M. Greenwald reporting