On consent this week, city staff is asking the council to authorize “initial work on Richards Boulevard interchange improvements in preparation for the 2018 SACOG Regional Funding cycle.”
Currently, Richards Blvd. serves as a major entry point into the city and a key connector between South Davis and the downtown. Staff notes that around 400 bicyclists and 200 pedestrians cross the Richards interchange on a daily basis (which seems like a low number).
The current design has no control over vehicle movements between traffic on Richards and the freeway interchange. The result is a multiple merge onto Richards that can occur at high speeds or could be at a near dead stop, depending on the time of the day.
Staff writes, “These high-speed movements create a safety concern for all modes on Richards Boulevard, particularly bicyclists and pedestrians.”
They also identify four “uncontrolled conflict points between bicyclists and vehicles due to the weaving movements the configuration of the I-80 Westbound ramps require.” The most severe of these occurs “on Northbound Richards Boulevard at the I-80 Westbound ramps where pedestrians and bicycles crossing the on or off-ramps must negotiate merging high-speed vehicles. Vehicles from the off-ramps that merge with Richards Boulevard traffic must look over their shoulders at a tight angle to judge gaps in traffic, all while paying attention to the signal at Richards Boulevard/Olive Drive and avoiding bicyclists.”
The city has been exploring improvements to this interchange, saying, “The identified preferred option is a ‘tight diamond’ with on/off-ramps similar to those on the north side of the Mace Boulevard Interchange.”
Staff continues, “It was also recognized that, even without new development, the existing interchange configuration did not provide the best traffic operations and expected regional growth would generate increased trips to and from Davis that would further exacerbate the operational concerns.”
The city has now entered into “into a cooperative agreement with Caltrans to perform a Project Study Report for the feasibility of a reconstructed ‘tight diamond’ interchange.”
The city has selected Mark Thomas and Company to proceed with this phase of the project.
Staff writes, “If approved by Council, Staff will work with MT&Co. to advance this project toward being as close to bid-ready as possible by the spring 2018 grant funding cycle.”
In their proposal, Mark Thomas and Company notes that, without improvement, the existing interchange “will degrade to Level of Service (LOS) ‘F’ in the design year of 2040.
“The goal of this project is to relieve existing congestion at the interchange, to accommodate increase traffic demand generated by approved and proposed development in the project area, and reduce the existing conflicts between bicyclists and vehicles along Richard Boulevard,” they write.
They note that also identified in the study “was the closure of the isolated off-ramp at Olive Drive.”
The consultants write, “The combination of this closure and the improvements at the Richards Boulevard/I-80 interchange will help the City improve circulation through this corridor and increase the safety and connectivity for bicyclists and pedestrians.”
While the city maintains that these changes are needed, independent of current and future development in the area, the consultants note that they have “coordinated the proposed improvements” to the Richards-Olive Drive intersections with “the Davis Arch Project, and planned for the future development of the Hotel Conference Center and the Nishi Gateway development.”
In the staff report, staff says, as noted above, “As a result of the community input focusing renewed concern about the interchange design impact on Richards Blvd., in February 2015, the City entered into a cooperative agreement with Caltrans to perform a Project Study Report for the feasibility of a reconstructed ‘tight diamond’ interchange.”
In April, Caltrans approved the Caltrans Project Study Report (PSR), “certifying that the project can move into the next phases, Project Approval and Environmental Documentation (PA&ED) and also final design, Plans Specifications and Estimates (PS&E).”
SACOG told staff that “the project was a strong candidate for the Regional/Local grant funding cycle which will occur in the spring of 2018.”
In order to competitively position the project, staff wants to “advance the project into the design phase” in order to “make the project nearly shovel-ready upon application submittal” as well as “demonstrate local commitment to delivering the project.”
Staff is hoping to complete the scope of this work within 18 months, which is consistent with the expected fall approval of grant funding by SACOG.
Staff concludes, “If the project is successful in receiving grant funding, depending upon which fiscal year funding would be available to the City, the project could potentially move into construction as early as 2019/20.”
—David M. Greenwald reporting