Could a Pedestrian Bridge Connect Campus to Innovation Centers?

Mike Hart of Sierra Energy is thinking outside of the box as he figures out creative ways to try to connect his Research and Development Center at Area 52 off Research Park Drive to campus.  He came up with the idea of a 3000-foot-long pedestrian bridge, 20 feet wide and about 20 feet in the air.

ViadUCD would connect UCD to the Davis commons, the Nishi property, the proposed conference center and then to Sierra Energy Research Park (SERP) and Area 52.

“This came about because of my involvement in the Nishi project,” Mike Hart told the Vanguard during an interview at Sierra Energy.  “We were trying to figure out best access routes, how do you connect things.

“The things that you really want to connect right now is the University, Downtown, Nishi, the potential Convention Center and the South Davis Research area,” he said.  He said, “I was trying to figure out how to connect it,” and while there is a bike path, he said, “if you walk it as I do, it’s not a good place for pedestrians.  It’s just not a good solution.

“The idea was why can’t we just have a pedestrian overcrossing stretching from the university connecting all these different points,” he said.

One thing that came to mind for him was the New York High Line.  The High Line, he explained, was an old railroad that went through all of Manhattan.  The railroad was pulled out years ago but they put in a walking path with lights and a pedestrian path and some vegetation.

“They created a beautiful place for people to walk,” he explained.  “They got people up and away from traffic, and they’re now slowly connecting it to buildings along the way.”

The High Line in New York is the inspiration for the concept of the pedestrian bridge

In Davis, this corridor has so much traffic, between the congestion of Richard Boulevard, and the freeway is really challenging.

Mike Hart was looking to connect his facility, Sierra Energy Research Park and Area 52 to the university.  His idea would have various stops where people can access the platform, “so they can safely get from place to place around town.”

At the time he originally started thinking about this, he thought he could tie in to the new convention center proposed on Richards at the University Park Inn, where people would then be able to connect to campus and other areas as well.

Mike Hart is working with the university to purchase a large parcel next to the Sierra Energy facility in order to put in a parking lot.  That parking lot would be in easy walking distance of the Convention Center and could solve the parking issues for that facility as well.

“That would give us adequate parking to finish the research park here,” he explained.  “It would also allow for people parking here at the Convention Center without people having to park on that side of the road.”

The question then became how much would such a project cost.  Mike Hart met with Clark Pacific, a large company that specializes in large overhead construction.

Clark Pacific came up with an estimate of $16 million.

Mike Hart is thinking 20 feet wide, wider than the High Line, “because one of my thoughts had been, one way you could pay for it is you could put little shops up there.”  People walking on the bridge might want a cup of coffee or a bite to eat.  He thought this might be a way to service a bond.

“With value engineering we may find that we can bring (the cost) down,” he said.

Mike Hart first came up with the idea last year, but he’s been waiting for a resolution on the Nishi Project to find out what is going to go up in that part of the city.

“The Nishi project really isn’t the primary driver,” he explained.  “The driver is to tie the campus-downtown and this convention center in the middle, altogether in one system.”

The bridge would have to go over both the railroad tracks and I-80.

Mike Hart explained that, in terms of the elevations, in both cases “we are well over the clearance range for (the PUC requirement).  We are at the same height as other existing crossings on the same track.  It would still have to be built to Union Pacific Standards.”

He said, “They are by no means a treat to work with.  I work with them all the time with the railroad.  As long as you stay safe, stay out of their working space, you won’t have a problem.”

But he said, “CalTrans is obviously more difficult.  But again they have the same requirements.”  He pointed out that “they have pedestrian bridges up and down the freeway.

“If it took pedestrians and gave them a safer way to cross, I don’t see why they wouldn’t be interested,” he said.

Mike Hart explained that this is an idea “that could be very cool.  It could provide a spine to a larger issue for Davis.”  He sees this as a way to get people from the “wrong side of Olive Drive” across Richards as well, if they extended the project toward the east.  On the other hand they could extend it across Richards on the south end to be able to reach the University Research Park.

But as yet, he has not had those conversations with either the city or other businesses to gauge their interest or support.

He is thinking you could put in some shade and plantings.  “You could make this really something signature for Davis,” he said.  “It’s an idea.  I’m just kind of sharing it with the community.  If people find this useful it would require some entity more involved than I am to take it to the next step.”

—David M. Greenwald reporting



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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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27 Comments

  1. Tia Will

    Brace yourself !  Keith and I both think this is a great idea. As one person who is actively working to get out of my car and onto my feet ( bad bike collision inhibits that option) this would be a very attractive option. The lack of a safe connector from downtown to South Davis kept me from walking to work for the past 6 years. I would have loved such an elevated pedestrian bridge.

    Also, I happen to love the High Line in New York and can easily envision an attractively landscaped addition to Davis. Of course, there is that small issue of cost.

  2. Mark West

    The High Line in a major metropolitan area with a very high population density. It is an example of repurposing infrastructure, saving the community the costs and frustrations of removing the elevated railway and creating a long elevated park instead. This project is located on the edge of a small community with a much lower population density and it will require all new construction. How many people do you suppose will use this bridge in a day? More than a handful? Especially when you consider that many in this community refuse to park more than a block or two from their destination at any time.

    If Mike and his businesses want to pay for this, I have no reason to oppose it, but if we are looking at the City paying for it, I see many other higher priority projects that we should fund first.

  3. Todd Edelman

     
    I’m all for a better pedestrian connection across I-80 (and the railway), and a better cycling connection — and these could be part of the same structure, or not. I agree that the existing Class I multi-use path – technically, it’s not a bike path – is too narrow for bikes to go fast and pedestrians to feel safe, and that the southern approach is awkward for the latter and e.g. not ADA-compliant. A long and shallow ramp to a widened freeway undercrossing would solve this to some extent – it would reach grade somewhere along a path across on the north side of Putah Creek to the existing path here.

    Clearly that’s not what Mike Hart has in mind.

    The High Line as a railway didn’t extend through all of Manhattan, just from 34th St. to Spring, and now it’s really a linear park designed primarily to increase the property value of buildings alongside it or ones that it goes through. It’s away from street traffic, but it doesn’t solve street traffic (and no bikes and no dogs are allowed – also no cafes in the air, etc.). Aside from some connecting buildings at the upper level thing, I don’t see any similarities to the High Line, and Mark West mentions some other details:

    A large part of this goes across the freeway – not a pleasant place for a slow walk – and it seems that 20 feet is a bit low as UP at least requires more like 23 feet over TOR (top of rail) but anyway it’s interesting that except at the ends perhaps the vertical connections would be elevators where there are no buildings – and really all of this for $16 million? (The rejected crossing of the tracks at the Cannery had a projected cost of $6.4 million).So cyclists would be excluded from this? All the elevators would be doubled to avoid ADA non-compliance? Will Dutch Bros. have a Tomatoline annex up in the air?

    To improve the lower route – which makes the most sense for a convenience and efficiency and cost standpoint – would Caltrans and UP agree to a widening of the existing under-crossings? Further, I thought that the Convention Center was not happening, and all the parking for whatever will be on the south side of the freeway? Then there’s also a potential improvement for the bike/ped crossing on Richards as part of its “tight diamond” thingey — but if this is built as conceived we have three (3) crossings over or under the I-80 and the same for the railway, all within the same roughly 600 ft. wide corridor, all missing something?

  4. Alan Miller

    Yeah, if only there wasn’t a parallel pedestrian bike route already built below ground, this would only be a moderately stupid idea. People prefer below grade as long as it’s perceived as safe, so you’d have to fill in the existing route with cement if you wanted to divert people to your flying magic-wide carpet ride.

    As it is, I expect it to be completed about 70 years before the Davis Rail Relocation, the boffo bozo of bad mega-infrastructure ideas for Davis.

    you could put little shops up there.

    And little unicorns could run the little shops, and they could sell little magical glittering trinkets.

  5. Dave Hart

    Well, I like it.  I bet even Alan secretly likes it.  After all, who doesn’t like unicorns?  I applaud Mike Hart (no relation) for proposing this, if for no other reason than to excite the imagination of the community to what could be, cost aside.  As it sits now, this seems like icing on a cake that has yet to be baked.  On the other hand, in this town, maybe we need to mix up the icing first so we can be inspired to bake a cake.

    I understand the problem of mixing pedestrian and bicycle traffic on the existing path.  An elevated walkway also feels safer to pedestrians particularly at night.  I’m having a hard time imagining how many pedestrians would actually use this alternate route.  Is there data on how many people are walking along the bike path currently?  And shops up there…hmmm…aren’t we having trouble filling empty spaces downtown?

    1. Alan Miller

      I bet even Alan secretly likes it.

      I would openly hate it if I had any concern of it being funded, but as it is it’s just an open joke.

      Shops . . . just like Sac Council saying there would be a ‘food truck rodeo’ on the way out to the tracks when they moved the platforms 1000′ out.  An even worse idea than Yolo Rail Relocation . . . and actually built . . . $100,000,000 for worse service.  And no F-ing food court rodeo.  Why do people with bad ideas always propose shops and food?  For fools to salivate over.

    2. Richard C

      Why do people with bad ideas always propose shops and food?

      Why not put one of the Marijuana dispensaries up there? That might get more people to use it 🙂

  6. Don Shor

    I think this is an interesting, actually rather intriguing idea. Obviously it’s a long way from any kind of final proposal and financing is key. No, I don’t think little shops are going to open up there, although I could see taco trucks and ice cream vendors. I especially like the idea that no bikes would be allowed, so people would actually feel safe to use it as it is intended.

    I hope Mike Hart will keep the discussion going.

     

    1. Todd Edelman

      I assume you are kidding about taco trucks — I’m the one who’s arguing that so many garbage designs getting massaged into reality by Public Works are dangerous for pedestrians and cyclists alike.

    2. Alan Miller

      actually rather intriguing idea.

      It’s not actually.  It’s a destraction when we have real infrastructure repairs and improvements that need doing.  Nothing makes a woman feel safe like a 3000′ walk on an extra-wide path over a freeway and railroad.

      Like a much better idea would be someone buying the Rust property for a lot less than $16 million and running the bike path from the Putah Creek Trail to the underpass under the freeway without the long detour.  That would make the path direct and through and better for bikes and peds.  A friend of mine was almost killed getting T-boned by a car on this short stretch where you are forced to interact with cars.  Finish the trail!

        1. Howard P

          So… you are opposed to “complete streets”?  We need separate transportation corridors for each of trucks, cars, bicycles and pedestrians? No mixing? Our “unmet needs” has jumped at least 1,000-fold, if true…

           

        2. David Greenwald

          The point Mike made to me is that the bike path is not well suited for pedestrians.  A complete street has a separate bike path from pedestrian path.

      1. Cheryl Essex

        This bike bridge is unnecessarily complicated, and WAY too pricey for the benefits. To relieve traffic at Olive Drive, Richards, I-80 and the tunnel to downtown, we need a new access point to downtown and the campus. I’d introduce a new Complete Street beginning at the eastbound on/off ramp intersection at Richards (KFC), swoop south and west through University Research Park, connect to an undercrossing of I-80 between University Research Park and Nishi (about where the existing Putah Creek bike tunnel is now), then another undercrossing of the RR to Old Davis Road at the Hyatt. This gives two access points to Nishi that are completely separate from the traffic mess at Olive Drive, and hopefully makes Nishi develop-able into a true Innovation Center. URP and Nishi could share the cost. They’d both benefit by a direct, less congested connection to campus. URP Win! Nishi win! City win! Campus win!

      2. Mike Hart

        I’m not entirely sure why you are behaving this way online.  I would be happy to meet you in person anytime to discuss the issues you seem to have with me.  I have been to your office in the past professionally and have been quite supportive of what goes on at the State Rail Planning office (and your High Speed Rail efforts)- you may recall that I was a member of the planning group for many years representing my railroad.  I don’t recall any reason for you to consider me a “bozo” or any of the other terms you have used today- but as I said, I would be happy to discuss anytime either here in Davis or at your office.

        As to the issue of the “Rust” property, it is no longer in that family’s hands (it sold about three years ago).  I have spent the past two years working with the current property owner and the city to complete the trail.  That climbing turn is a huge safety issue and dumping the bikes onto the street as they do is just awful.  I have already offered to donate my property and have arranged with the other remaining property owner (the Masons) to contribute the last two parcels required to finish the bike path connection.  I have also offered to pay for the construction of the bike path along my property privately.  The development is underway and was before the city concil last month.  Yes, the trail needs to be finished and I am working very hard to see that done soon.  The issue I raise is that there is a difference between a bike path and a pedestrian walkway. I respect that you think it is a bad idea- candidly, that is the reason why I asked David to share the idea as I wanted to know what people thought about it- if its a bad idea, there is no reason to pursue it, if people see it as a good way to get people off the streets- and over two difficult parts of Davis, I can talk to the other property owners to pursue.

        I have actually funded the analysis personally and have made no request for any sort of public funding for the pathway.  My current thinking is that it would be funded by the property owners involved (using the PBID bonding approach).

        Mike Hart

         

    1. Alan Miller

      aHa.  ha.  haaahaaaaa.   A-hahahahahahah.   HaA!

      Ah!  Hahahahahahahahahahahah!   AHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAAHAHAHAH!

      HA!  HA! HAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAH!!!!!!!

      1. Mike Hart

        Alan Miller-
        I’m not entirely sure why you are behaving this way online.  I would be happy to meet you in person anytime to discuss the issues you seem to have with me.  I have been to your office in the past professionally and have been quite supportive of what goes on at the State Rail Planning office (and your High Speed Rail efforts)- you may recall that I was a member of the planning group for many years representing my railroad.  I don’t recall any reason for you to consider me a “bozo” or any of the other terms you have used today- but as I said, I would be happy to discuss anytime either here in Davis or at your office.
        As to the issue of the “Rust” property, it is no longer in that family’s hands (it sold about three years ago).  I have spent the past two years working with the current property owner and the city to complete the trail.  That climbing turn is a huge safety issue and dumping the bikes onto the street as they do is just awful.  I have already offered to donate my property and have arranged with the other remaining property owner (the Masons) to contribute the last two parcels required to finish the bike path connection.  I have also offered to pay for the construction of the bike path along my property privately.  The development is underway and was before the city concil last month.  Yes, the trail needs to be finished and I am working very hard to see that done soon.  The issue I raise is that there is a difference between a bike path and a pedestrian walkway. I respect that you think it is a bad idea- candidly, that is the reason why I asked David to share the idea as I wanted to know what people thought about it- if its a bad idea, there is no reason to pursue it, if people see it as a good way to get people off the streets- and over two difficult parts of Davis, I can talk to the other property owners to pursue.
        I have actually funded the analysis personally and have made no request for any sort of public funding for the pathway.  My current thinking is that it would be funded by the property owners involved (using the PBID bonding approach).

        1. Howard P

          See… http://www.pumaworldhq.com/downloads/PUMA_CA-PBID_FactSheet8-10.pdf

          Doesn’t appear that a PBID could be formed in Davis, by the private property owners, and finance a $16 mm + capital improvements.  The $16 mm also does not seem to include right-of-way acquisition.  Huge.

          Note the terms, “financed by a self-imposed and self-governed assessment. Similar to a common area maintenance (CAM) charge commonly found in shopping malls and office parks”… real?

          Another question, how many kW-hrs has Sierra Energy produced to date?  Goes to credibility and viability.

          No clue from the website, http://www.sierraenergy.com/company/about-sierra-energy/

          Track record? [pun intended!]

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