City Proposes Revisions for Mace Blvd. Corridor

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The chart at last week’s meeting shows the support for Alternative 1

After several public meetings with citizen complaints about the redesigned Mace Boulevard, staff is recommending that council proceed with further design revisions for the corridor which were referred to as Alternative 1 at last Thursday’s meeting – the viable alternative that garnered the most support from the 200-plus citizens in attendance at the South Davis Fire Station meeting.

The recommendations call for Mace Blvd. to be restored to four lanes between Cowell Boulevard and N. El Macero Drive, as well as restore northbound Mace to two automobile travel lanes between San Marino Drive and North El Macero Drive.

They would convert the problematic Mace/San Marino three-way flashing red light stop control.  They will also install bollards at key locations “to prevent unwanted vehicle entry into bike/pedestrian areas.”

Staff reports that the unallocated remaining budget for the project is just under half a million, and they believe, “There are sufficient funds to begin the design revisions as presented in this staff report and to partially fund some of the lower cost construction items.”

The goal of the project was to “create a safer traveling environment for motor vehicles, bicyclists, and pedestrians.”  However, “Since the project design phase was completed in 2016 and prior to construction, traffic congestion steadily increased along the corridor during the evening peaks, particularly on Thursdays and Fridays.”

The city cites at least three factors contributing to this problem: traffic congestion on eastbound I-80 which backs up past Richards Blvd., resulting in motorists exiting at Richards and bypassing freeway congestion by traveling east on Chiles through Mace, increasing congestion at the Mace Blvd./Chiles Road intersection.

Second, the Mace Blvd. on-ramps are backing up, and third, “Mobile and in-car navigation applications re-route freeway traffic in Dixon at the Pedrick Road interchange around the congestion via eastbound Tremont Road and northbound Mace Blvd.”

Staff believes that the project itself has likely contributed to congestion both through the construction work and some of the design features, including the reduction from four to two automobile traffic lanes and the removal of right turn lanes at the Mace and Cowell intersection.

Staff writes: “Traffic congestion on Interstate 80 continues to increase, as does the use of navigation applications diverting drivers around it. This technology has also affected Cowell Blvd, Covell Blvd, and Second Street corridors. Given navigation applications algorithms route drivers based on travel time, peak traffic congestion relief from capacity-increasing design revisions may not endure, long term.”

Staff warns “routing more cars through the corridor may occur, resulting in similar congestion problems.”

Therefore, they argue that “adjustments to the Mace Blvd corridor should focus on accommodating local traffic demands and movements, while assisting with alleviating out of town ‘cut through’ traffic to the extent possible.”

The ultimate solution is therefore to increase capacity of I-80 or “other policies to bring highway travel in better alignment with capacity. Separate efforts with Caltrans are underway to examine this issue more closely.”

Staff notes that the “original design concept was intended to improve safety for all Mace Blvd users.”  They continue to believe this should remain the core objective, but they need to balance that with the need to alleviate peak congestion “while achieving the broader objectives of reducing vehicle speeds, improving comfort and safety for non-motorized users.”  At the same time, there is a need to increase walking and bicycling to Pioneer Elementary School.

A top concern raised by residents was the removal of “channelized right turns.”  They note that such removals is consistent with adopted city transportation policy.  On the one hand, the restoration of these turns for “all right-turning vehicles to pull into when safe, could improve intersection level of service during peak hours.”

At the same time, it increases vehicle/pedestrian and bike conflict points.

Staff writes: “This is a topic requiring clear council direction. If council does consider restoring some right-turn movements, adding right turn lanes, or pockets instead of channelized right turns would be the recommended alternative.”

What should be done on Mace Blvd. between Cowell Blvd. and El Macero Dr.?

Staff acknowledges “that reducing travel lanes from four to two lanes exacerbates queueing during peak hours, which increases travel delay. Restoring this segment to four lanes will help with traffic congestion but requires removing the constructed protected bike lanes.”

Staff acknowledges as well that, with the exception of what has happened during peak hours along Mace, particularly during the Thursday and Friday afternoon/ evening commute, “the Mace Blvd corridor largely performs as intended, albeit with clear design challenges which have led to user frustration.”

They note: “The absence of pavement striping and marking, which occurs as construction’s last phase, has likely contributed to some confusion about the design. Striping will take place shortly and will improve immediate concerns until corridor revisions are made.”

At this point staff is willing to support the compromise proposal of Alternative 1, but “recommends against restoring the corridor to its identical prior configuration.”  Here they argue that previous vehicle speeds were higher than desired, the corridor was uncomfortable for non-motorized users, and in some locations, the prior design was incompatible with 2016 street design standards.

In addition, “Staff does not generally support restoring channelized right turns or right turn pockets. These alternatives encourage higher turning speeds and/or increase crossing distances for non-motorized users, which significantly affects perceptions of Mace Blvd as a crossing barrier.”

—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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24 thoughts on “City Proposes Revisions for Mace Blvd. Corridor”

  1. Darell Dickey

    This is likely the most reasonably written piece that I’ve seen on the subject. Thanks David.

    >> reducing travel lanes from four to two lanes exacerbates queueing during peak hours, which increases travel delay. Restoring this segment to four lanes will help with traffic congestion <<

    Four lanes will not “help with congestion” no matter how much we want it to be true, nor how much it seems “obvious.” The first bit of evidence is all the congestion that this corridor experienced BEFORE the construction. It was two through lanes with dedicated turn lanes in each direction (at Cowell).

    Filed under the category of “nothing is ever as simple as it first seems,” it should be noted that more travel lanes *increases* motor vehicle delay at intersections. This is due to the increased pedestrian crossing times that wider intersections require. Crossing light timing for a road the width that some have proposed (two through lanes, a dedicated left and a dedicated right turn lane) would be around 30 seconds, even if older children will often cross in half that time. The crossing time is set in feet per second for the slowest person expected to need to cross. A 30 second delay at a traffic signal is significant.

    Motor vehicle delays are reduced when the cross section is narrowed. Each lane removed is that much less delay at the intersection. Surprise! Opposite of how it first would seem. The same mistake was made on Covell at J.

    And in the end, the limiting factor will always be the freeway, not the number of lanes.

    1. Matt Williams

      Darell, for those people who want to drill down a bit, can you share any links that provide more information about your next to last paragraph … on reducing motor vehicle delays.

      Thanks.

      1. Darell Dickey

        Unfortunately, I don’t have a link handy that deals specifically with this issue. The other related issue is how long to give the vehicle traffic the green between giving the peds the green.

        The lanes right-to-left will likely be 11 feet, 10.5 feet, 10 feet, 10 feet. 41.5 feet per side. Plus the center island, plus the other travel direction.

        The ped timing will have to be chosen by somebody, and it will likely be in the range of 2.5-3 ft per second of walk speed. That timing starts at the last moment that the walk sign is green (as it starts to flash red. So first the sign is on for a bit to allow everybody to realize it is their turn to be in the street, then the chosen timing begins counting.

        If we use round, best-case numbers, we have 80 feet to cross at 3 feet per second. 26.7 seconds. Then add the time for the initial green walk sign to be lit. Call it 30 seconds.

        Every lane you add or subtract has a direct affect on how long the drivers are looking at a red light at each intersection for each cycle.

  2. Alan Miller

    The recommendations call for Mace Blvd. to be restored to four lanes

    the restoration of these turns for “all right-turning vehicles to pull into when safe, could improve intersection level of service during peak hours.”

    staff is recommending that council proceed with further design revisions for the corridor which were referred to as Alternative 1 at last Thursday’s meeting – the viable alternative that garnered the most support from the 200-plus citizens in attendance at the South Davis Fire Station meeting.

    Does anyone notice a theme here?  Go with the crying-out citizen majority, and come up with an auto-centric solution that will actually attract more congestion.  Very similar to the ultimate parking solution, that decreased value in off-street parking by charging for it, while increasing value in street parking by not charging for it, increasing circling.  Compromise solutions to the detriment of all.  Phhhhhhhhht!

    The ultimate solution is therefore to increase capacity of I-80

    First of all, that is a decade in the future, and likely will only move the choke point.  So none of us reading this will ever see the effects.  And,  by that time, there will be a massive increase in population in the area due to both densification and sprawl, and despite all the talk, auto-use is actually increasing and our increased plans for truely transformative changes in how we get around is decades and hudreds of billions of dollars in the future — in other words, none of us reading this will ever see that utopia.   But the politicians will dangle just enough of it in front of us that it’s always just out of reach — while they put the real money into another lane on I-80 in 2035. 

    Have fun suckers.

     

  3. Mark West

    This is an example of how the City’s lack of leadership is damaging. This project was designed using sound concepts and goals. It was fully vetted through our commissions and approved by the CC. It is being criticized for impacts that are largely due to the construction, the resulting public confusion, and outside influences (Waze), not from the actual design. What we should be doing now is finishing the project as designed and then live with it for six months or a year to see what the actual impacts are on all modes of transport. Only then should we consider making changes to address those impacts, and only when those design changes are derived through sound planning by trained professionals, not picked by a straw poll of a small sector of the untrained public.

     

    1. Alan Miller

      Agree with MW, and thanks, very level-headedly stated.

      Agree even more after that letter published in the DV a few weeks ago talking about all the people who live in the area who wanted changes in the first place and don’t want to see it go back to four lanes.  (Darn, kind find it in a search).

    2. Rik Keller

      Totally agree with these statements Mark,  And I think you have hit the nail on the head in regards to the lack of leadership from City Council on this matter. This re-design on the fly seems a recipe for possibly making things worse (before we even have a sense of whether any re-design issues are warranted once the project is in full operation) and making things less safe for pedestrians/bicyclists/cars in the name of just “doing something”.

    3. Darell Dickey

      >> It is being criticized for impacts that are largely due to the construction, the resulting public confusion, and outside influences (Waze), not from the actual design. What we should be doing now is finishing the project as designed and then live with it for six months or a year to see what the actual impacts are on all modes of transport. Only then should we consider making changes to address those impacts, and only when those design changes are derived through sound planning by trained professionals, not picked by a straw poll of a small sector of the untrained public. <<

      Well said, Mark! (I’m not as quick to assign blame… there are many subtle factors involved here, including such nebulous concept of our “culture.”)

  4. Tia Will

    The ultimate solution is therefore to increase capacity of I-80″

    “Ultimate solutions” invariably must address the core issue. The issue here as many have stated is too many private vehicles. Without addressing this issue, there will be no solution, “ultimate” or otherwise.

    1. Ron Oertel

      With the cumulative impacts of tens of thousands of houses planned for areas in areas such as Natomas, Woodland, Elk Grove, Roseville, and Folsom (not to mention the new governor’s efforts), a reduction in motor vehicles on I-80 and throughout the region does not seem likely – to say the least.

      1. Darell Dickey

        Well, *something* has to give. We cannot pave our way out of never-ending motor vehicle congestion. There isn’t enough money or land. One solution is to reduce the need for travel. The other is to find an option to the single-occupant private automobile.

        1. Ron Oertel

          “The other is to find an option to the single-occupant private automobile.”

          Maybe the city council should pass a resolution which addresses vehicle usage and development plans for the entire region?  😉

        2. Ron Oertel

          It’s not that they aren’t driving – but fewer are driving than before.

          The folks moving to the types of developments found in this region are definitely “personally” driving:

          https://www.sacbee.com/news/local/article154936164.html

          (10,000 new homes in Folsom)

          It also depends upon how you’re defining “young people”, and where they live.

          Young people living in San Francisco probably depend more on services such as Uber and Lyft – which still count as “driving”.

          When those same folks become older, want to buy a house and perhaps start a family, many move to areas such as Folsom, Natomas, Elk Grove, etc. Those folks are definitely “driving”.

        3. Darell Dickey

          >> Maybe the city council should pass a resolution which addresses vehicle usage and development plans for the entire region?   <<

          I appreciate the sarcasm. And really, this IS the problem we have. Right now on Mace much of the angst is due to regional problems that we’re attempting to solve locally. I’m not in the planing biz, but I can sure see how it has a huge affect on anything we attempt to do piece-meal with traffic.

        4. Bill Marshall

          Darell… your 2:56 post…

          Right now on Mace much of the angst is due to regional problems that we’re attempting to solve locally. I’m not in the planing biz, but I can sure see how it has a huge affect on anything we attempt to do piece-meal with traffic.

          Highlights, mine… spot on, Darell!  Apparently, you think (actually I KNOW you do)… hope that trait is ‘catching’… please spread that infectious condition throughout Davis!

    2. Alan Miller

      the core issue . . .  is too many private vehicles.

      I would state it slightly differently.  The core issues is that viable alternative transportation is violently underfunded, too slow, too limited in geographic extent, horribly connected as a system, and inconvenient to the mass of people.  Until you have viable, functional, rapid alternative transportation, you cannot significantly reduce auto use by the mass of the public through TODs or road redesigns or anything, because the alternatives still suck raw chicken eggs.  Unfortunately, this is an investment in the hundreds of billions statewide that isn’t even on the radar.

  5. Ron Oertel

    From article:  “Staff reports that the unallocated remaining budget for the project is just under half a million, and they believe, “There are sufficient funds to begin the design revisions as presented in this staff report and to partially fund some of the lower cost construction items.”

    So, I guess they’re “allocating” the remainder of the budget, and will be looking for additional funds from elsewhere (e.g., for the “higher cost construction items”).  Wondering how the city is planning to accomplish this.

    (Hopefully, without having to pay back the SACOG-distributed funds, as well.)

     

    1. Darell Dickey

      If we had to pay that money back to change things, we’d be sticking a fork in this project right now. As for where to get the money, it would sure be nice if we could just print it like the Fed gov’t.

      1. Bill Marshall

        We do… don’t you know the password and countersign to get Davis Dollars?   Costs nothing to obtain, and is legal tender everywhere!

        Others still think we have to go thru appropriations @ State/Fed levels to get everything we think we should have, by right…at no cost to us, of course…

        [Yes, see a skeptical/tongue in cheek emoticon… don’t know how to do those]

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