Commentary: City Looking at Taking Steps to Address the Traffic Mess on Mace


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).

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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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30 thoughts on “Commentary: City Looking at Taking Steps to Address the Traffic Mess on Mace”

  1. Sharla Cheney

    David, It takes roughly 20-30 mins to go 2 miles from UCD at Howard Way to Poleline at 5:00 pm almost every day.  This is life for people in town.  Maybe they can change the lights to allow more cars through the intersection at one time.  But that will only invite more cars off the highway.

  2. Rik Keller

    David Greenwald stated “The easy part was acknowledging the problem…”

    But acknowledging the problem is not easy for some people apparently:

    -“Traffic Complaints about Construction on Mace Seem a Bit Overblown”

      -“It probably slows down the north-south traffic on Mace by a little bit, but not much.  It really functions quite well. And I understand, they are probably two months behind where they said they would be – but it is really not a big deal.”

       -“I don’t really understand these complaints.  The travel time for the most part is only marginally impacted – and perhaps not by that much.”

    -“People have to be a bit more tolerant about traffic delays sometimes.”

    [David Greenwald, 1/27/2019]


    1. Ron Oertel

      Yeap – another issue that the Vanguard has been “out of step” on.

      I think I have a couple of “solutions” though:

      1)  We need a large, traffic-generating development on prime farmland on Mace, near Ikeda’s.  That ought to help with traffic along Mace Boulevard, freeway frontage roads and access points, etc.  Not to mention I-80, itself.

      2)  We need to ensure that we never miss-out on SACOG funding for “improvements” such as the one described in this article.

      1. Rik Keller

        Ron O:
        I’m wondering where Greenwald thinks the SCIENCE lies in all of this? Was his earlier assessment–that there wasn’t a problem and that people just need to stop whining–based on SCIENCE? Is it just a coincidence that his view on that coincided with previous City Council opinion that concern was overblown?

        Or is his concession now–that there is actually a problem–because of SCIENCE?

        1. Ron Oertel

          Rik:  At this point, I’m almost amused by some of the arguments presented on here. As evidenced by this article, even a talented “political writer” has to throw in the towel and acknowledge reality, at some point.

          Also, on the “other” blog, there’s an article stating that the SACOG-funded “improvements” might be removed/modified, at some point.

          Gee, I wonder if SACOG is going to pay for that?  😉


  3. James Richie

    Widening I-80 to 5 lanes from West Sacramento to Vacaville is such a long overdue project by CalTrans, and the longer it gets delayed, we can’t expect intercity traffic to get better. As more and more people move out of the Bay Area and commute to Sacramento suburbs and beyond, more will be diverted through residential areas by traffic apps.


    I feel bad for the folks of South Davis who are experiencing this, but residents everywhere also need to realize that they are not entitled to expect the same brief commute at 5pm on Friday as that of 4am on a Wednesday.


    I am a big proponent of blocking/removing the Chiles exit. I don’t know the full implications of that, but it feels like that would help this situation.

    1. Richard McCann

      Freeway widening probably is needed, but the first step would be to extend the right lane of 113 about 200 meters farther to the Richards exit. That would relieve some congestion on I80.

      As for closing the Chiles exit, that would just make Mace worse as Waze is telling drivers to exit in Dixon and get on Tremont to Mace. They would just back up Mace farther south.

      Waze might be able to help by directing Bay Area drivers up 113 to I-5 instead.

    1. Ron Oertel

      Damn straight.  Make sure those poor folks stay on I-80, instead.  Never mind that it might not survive a court challenge/appeals, or that other apps won’t be created. These are public roads, not private ones.

      In any case, ensuring that they stay in gridlocked traffic on I-80 SOUNDS GREEN TO ME. 🙂 And, let’s add even more, via a massive development proposed on Mace.

  4. Dave Hart

    The original design of Mace Blvd. and many other “arterials” are part of the residential sprawl model that happened everywhere in the late 1960s and early 1970s.  It was all based on the seemingly limitless possibilities to which many of us (mostly older) still wish we could return.  You can live away from the city center on your own little ranch and drive everywhere with no downside.  Of course, nobody ever entertained the thought that if everyone could afford to live that way then everyone would.  So now we have a society and culture built around automotive transportation and we’ve discovered some drawbacks:  greenhouse gas emissions, 20,000 annual deaths from collisions and the worst of the worst, time spent in traffic.

    I am supportive of any attempt to retrofit Mace Blvd. or any other major arterial from its original design objectives toward pedestrian and bicycle or scooter uses.  Anderson Blvd. is narrowed down to one lane each direction along the school frontage.  Russell Blvd. has been modified on both sides of 113 to slow traffic down and it has been helpful.  I’m afraid there is only so much that can be done to retrofit bad decisions from the past.  I think of these streets, when on foot or bicycle, as great, impassable concrete rivers that are a natural barrier between neighborhoods.  When I’m in my car, I see them as wonderful conduits to get places quickly.  Yes, I’m conflicted.  That is why getting people out of their cars is the biggest problem we face.  But until we solve that riddle, slowing people down on these large arterials and reclaiming our shared city real estate for people is more important than the convenience of getting somewhere quicker in our cars.

    1. Ron Oertel

      “The original design of Mace Blvd. and many other “arterials” are part of the residential sprawl model that happened everywhere in the late 1960s and early 1970s.”

      It’s a fantasy, to pretend that this is in the past. Developers will continue to try to take advantage of freeway access, well-past the point of gridlock.

        1. Ron Oertel

          Dave:  By opposing those development proposals, simultaneously saving farmland/open space.

          It’s a regional, statewide, and national problem.  But, only some communities are willing to preserve what they have.  Davis is (sort of) one of them. And yet, some oppose such efforts – every step of the way.

          When I look out at the land, views, and crops at the site of the proposed MRIC (or Covell Village site), I appreciate them as is.  Unlike some others, I’m not looking at such sites as “solutions” to address mistakes regarding prior development choices, city expenses, etc.

          I also don’t think it’s wise to build even more developments which exacerbate existing traffic challenges.


        2. Craig Ross

          Hey I have a great idea – we can solve our traffic problems by allowing our roads to get so bad (through lack of funding) that no one wants to drive in this town.  It’s brilliant.

        3. Matt Williams

          The cover of this week’s New Yorker magazine (copied and pasted below) seconds Ron’s “It’s a regional, statewide, and national problem.”  The challenge we face at all geographic and societal levels is finding a moral solution to that problem.  I’m not sure whether Ron is advocating for birth control (abstinence) or population control (a wall) or something else altogether.  I’ll be interested to hear what solutions Ron proposes, and what he believes the human consequences of those solutions are.

          [Moderator: Copyright content removed. Per the New Yorker: “The material on this site may not be reproduced, distributed, transmitted, cached or otherwise used, except with the prior written permission of Condé Nast.”]

        4. Ron Oertel

          Matt:  This isn’t something I’m “advocating”, but I do find this quote interesting:

          Torlucci — who prepares enrollment projections for school districts in nine different states — said that Davis is by no means the only California district looking at a likely drop in the number of resident students. “Your trend is seen across the state … in the Bay Area, and in Southern California. Birthrates are down, and the price of housing (is high).”

          Regardless, there are a lot of places in the country where job opportunities and pay are better-aligned with housing prices.  (Especially when compared to the Bay Area, for example.  Unless one works for a tech company.)  This is also a primary reason that I cannot easily live in my original home town.

          A friend of mine recently moved to Nevada, within about 50 miles of ski resorts.  Better weather than the Sacramento valley, as well.  He loves it, and was able to get a house at a reasonable price.  He keeps telling me how much friendlier the people are there, as well.  (More “conservative”, though.) But, that’s just one example.

          “Supply and demand” is already causing more folks to leave California, than migrate to California from other states. Maybe that’s not a bad thing.


        5. Ron Oertel

          By the way, he’s pretty much unwilling to travel back to California (even for a visit), unless absolutely necessary.  He’s had it with aggressive drivers, gridlock, etc.

        6. Matt Williams

          Ron, there are lots of people who are pretty much unwilling to travel back to the East Coast from California (even for a visit), unless absolutely necessary.  They’ve had it with aggressive drivers, gridlock, and sub-standard weather.

          Beauty is in the eye of the beholder.

        7. Matt Williams

          Ron, I’m not sure where you are getting your statistics that California’s population is decreasing. The population numbers simply do not support that conclusion.













  5. Dave Hart

    The purpose of the project is to improve pedestrian and bicycle safety along Mace Boulevard to encourage more Pioneer Elementary students and families to walk or ride to school. Will this remain the goal for South Davis and El Macero residents who have ideas on how to fix the fix?

    1. Ron Oertel

      Dave:  I don’t know what their goal is.

      But, one thing I’d examine is how many students are we talking about, vs. how many people are experiencing problems as a result of the SACOG-funded “improvement”.  (I suspect there’s some overlap, in that some who are complaining about the improvement might also have children at the school.)

      I might also examine the environmental impact of creating gridlock, as a result of the improvement. And, the emergency vehicle safety concerns, that some have brought up.

      I might also try to come up with some projections, regarding the expected increase in the number of students who would bike to school as a result of the improvements.  (It’s possible that this number is essentially “zero”.)  Perhaps this is something that should have been considered, prior to spending millions of dollars (even if it’s a “gift” from SACOG).

      Also, note that the school board has apparently acknowledged that DJUSD enrollment is expected to decrease, over time. (I recall a recent article, regarding that.)

      We can try to declare “war” on car drivers, but I suspect that it ultimately won’t work.  Cars will remain the primary mode of transportation, even as they hopefully shift toward more environmentally-friendly technologies over time.

  6. Ron Oertel

    On the “other” blog, there’s now a link to a petition to restore Mace Boulevard to two lanes (in each direction), with bike lanes.  According to that article, it’s already gathered more than 270 signatures.

    I wonder why that article isn’t (also) appearing on the Vanguard?

    1. Matt Williams

      Ron, the Vanguard isn’t the only journalistic outlet that has thus far not had a story about the petition

      Brandon Hurley
      El Macero· 1m ago

      I received an email from the Davis Enterprise and it looks like the Mace Petition will be in Sunday’s paper under Bob Dunning. Awesome job so far 288 signatures

  7. Dave Hart

    I asked above if the purpose of the project is to improve pedestrian and bicycle safety along Mace Boulevard to encourage more Pioneer Elementary students and families to walk or ride to school then will this remain the goal for South Davis and El Macero residents who have ideas on how to fix the fix?  Ron Oertel says he doesn’t know.  Who does?  Because returning Mace Blvd. to four lanes will bring the average speed back up to 40mph on weekends when the WAZAmaniacs are out and will leave Mace Blvd. a wide concrete river forbidding to pedestrians and bicyclists.  That is in direct opposition to the purpose of the project which was to lower speeds and generally make the Mace Blvd. more human centered.

    1. Matt Williams

      Dave asks a very good question.  The 40 MPH speed can be largely addressed by posting the Speed Limit for Mace as 25 MPH.

      The presence of the substantial concrete barriers between the vehicle lanes and the dedicated/protected  bike/ped lanes will largely address the safety and “forbidding to pedestrians and bicycles” issues.  Note: Since perception is reality, there will always be in any configuration some people who will argue it can be more safe and less forbidding.  We have that currently on the greenbelts where there are no cars/trucks, only bicycles and pedestrians.

      One possibility is to have two vehicle lanes going north and one vehicle lane going south.  That would leave a pedestrian-only 10 sidewalk on the west side of Mace and two protected bike/ped lanes, in addition to the total of four vehicle lanes (two northbound, one turning, and one southbound).

      I really like Sharla Chaney’s idea for converting the I-80 on ramps at Mace into an extended “chute” configuration like the one at the intersection of I-80 and I-5.  The extended on ramp cuing capacity that such a configuration would provide would “draw” additional cars off of Mace, both northbound south of the Chiles Road intersection and southbound on the Mace Overpassand Mace-Covell curve.

      One of the pre conditions for any consideration of a reopened MRIC application could be funding of Sharla Chaney’s idea.

      Thed key to arriving at a good solution is collaboration.


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