This traffic situation on Mace is bad and getting worse – that’s the message received by the city, mayor and councilmembers on Thursday evening at a community meeting.
The easy part was acknowledging the problem – the harder part will be finding a solution.
Mayor Brett Lee explained to residents that “this is an urgent matter” and he promised, “We are going to transition rapidly into finding solutions because this is not acceptable and we need to find a way to fix it.”
What has gone wrong? That is difficult to know for sure. It would seem like a variety of problems. The city has done construction on the south part of Mace, and narrowed traffic lanes from four automobile lanes down to two. Is that responsible for the traffic backing up in both directions throughout the day?
The worst part of it has been Thursday and Friday during evening commutes. But I’m not exactly sure that the traffic calming project is solely responsible here. For example, last Thursday we spent nearly half an hour in traffic going from Harper Junior High to South Davis – the problem was a huge amount of traffic headed east on Covell Blvd, backing up from the westbound and eastbound entrances of the freeway all the way to the Mace Curve.
That should not have been impacted at all by the traffic calming, which was to the south of the interchange, and by the time we got to Nugget Market, the traffic had basically returned to normal.
Compounding the problem are mobile apps that are diverting traffic from I-80 to surface streets. In addition, metering lights on the freeway onramps are helping to further back up traffic onto Chiles and Mace. Some are blaming the elimination of right-turn lanes on Mace.
A big question is whether the city has any ability to get apps not to redirect traffic from Dixon to bypass Davis and re-enter the freeway via Mace. But even that doesn’t seem to address the only problem here.
Many residents simply want to see the city reverse the entire infrastructure project. It is not clear that would solve things, as we saw similar problems a few years ago before the infrastructure project even began.
For his part, Mayor Lee told the residents, “I understand there is a healthy level of skepticism out there given the project and given the current conditions and that’s totally understandable, but we’re committed to improve this and to fix this.”
He added, “Our goal is to have it be better than the way it was. … We honestly believe that we can do that.”
The question at this point is how? It seems unlikely the city has the resources to simply undo the changes. It is also not clear that doing so will make things better.
Nevertheless, both Mayor Lee and Councilmember Lucas Frerichs promised on Thursday to make adjustments and changes in the next couple of weeks and months. What those changes would entail remain a bit murky.
Mayor Lee acknowledged that the situation is not acceptable and that it will have some cost to fix it. He further acknowledged that “we don’t have a choice” and “we can’t have Davis be like this.”
According to reports there were at least 100 people in attendance of the meeting on Thursday night. The problems that were listed, residents claim, happened almost immediately when the project – which began in 2013 as a $3 million infrastructure project as part of a SACOG (Sacramento Area Council of Governments) grant to pay for resurfacing Mace – finally got underway last fall.
The project has several different components – eliminating the right turn pockets at Mace and Cowell, creating bike lanes that are protected along Mace, and reducing Mace from four traffic lanes down to two lanes for cars.
Part of the hope was to make bike and pedestrian travel to Pioneer Elementary safer for school children to walk and bike to school – with concerns at the time being the lack of protected bicycle lanes along Mace, in addition to high rates of vehicle speed.
Now residents are concerned with traffic being at a standstill, blocking access to emergency vehicles like fire and ambulance, long delays to get from El Macero to the freeway – and, ironically enough, more concerns about collisions and allowing children to bike and walk to school.
Residents have been consistently complaining about the reduced quality of life for the residents of South Davis.
The key question at this point is what the exact nature of the problem is. As mentioned, it is easy to point to the road project – and that is probably at least part of the blame – but that should not account for back ups along East Covell and North Mace onto the freeway. So there is likely something more going on.
Can the city get apps like Waze not to divert traffic onto surface streets? That might be the biggest factor and really has little to do with the new changes.
The city is talking about having another meeting on April 11 at 6 pm. That will be held at the South Davis Fire Station. There would be a second meeting scheduled for May 15 – the hope is that at that time city staff would be able to outline a solution.
However, Brett Lee said that while he is hoping improvements would begin prior to the May 15 meeting, “some solutions will take a little bit longer.”
—David M. Greenwald reporting
(Thank you to the citizen that provided the Vanguard with notes and a few quotes from the meeting).