On Thursday, there will be another meeting on the Mace Boulevard issue, and hopefully by that point the city will be ready to roll out what it views as a solution to a slew of publicly expressed concerns about the new design of Mace.
In a recent letter to the Enterprise, Elaine Roberts Musser, identifying herself as a “member of the transportation committee that devised the update to the Transportation Implementation Plan” pointed out that one of the goals of this plan was “multi-modal share” or the idea that “all modes of transportation need to be taken into account when planning for road improvements.”
During this process, she noted, there were a number of “very loud voice(s) from the bicycling community,” pushing for more emphasis on bicycle safety.
She writes: “Understandably, they thought it had gotten short shrift over the years, and now wanted some teeth put into the issue. However, in the end, we wisely decided to make sure all modes of transportation were taken into account, with bicycle safety as only one, albeit very important, component of the plan.”
Given their plan, she believes that the consultants who designed the new Mace changes did not follow their direction.
“I certainly won’t call the changes an improvement,” she writes. “The result was to make the situation worse, not better, as the City Council has discovered to the city’s cost.”
Instead, she points to Fifth Street in downtown Davis as an example of the concept of multi-modal transportation that is “working very well.”
She notes: “While it is true that traffic is somewhat slowed at rush hour, it is so much safer for bicycles, cars are not slowed by bicycles taking up car lanes, and (it) has improved traffic on side streets that used to avoid Fifth Street.”
Meanwhile, Bob Dunning over the weekend continues to criticize the city, here about talking with Mayor Brett Lee.
“I think the official city position is that we are working on a re-design that must improve the currently unacceptable situation,” said the mayor. He would add: “I believe we got into this mess because of a mediocre design that wasn’t properly vetted.”
This is similar to what the mayor told me.
However, Mr. Dunning goes further, noting, “While Lee is predictably and rightly taking the heat on an expensive ‘improvement’ that turned out to be a disaster, this is not a one-man plan. The city of Davis doesn’t work that way.”
Implicit here is the notion that the improvements have been “a disaster” and are the cause for the problems.
However, that probably misrepresents the view of Brett Lee. To be sure, he is not a great fan of the road design as it is currently comprised. On the other hand, if pressed, he will acknowledge that the traffic problems – while not solved by the road design – are also not caused by the road design.
He thinks the roadway can be redesigned by this summer to better accommodate the traffic that is coming in from outside of Davis as well as the local traffic. That is similar to what Chief Pytel told the Vanguard last week – finding a way to better store traffic that is headed for I-80 will free up road capacity for traffic trying to get through the local streets and remain in town.
As my column on Monday attempted to explain, while many people have already seemingly decided that they know that the roads changes are the problem, I am far from convinced that is the case.
Chief Pytel noted that, during spring break, traffic was flowing relatively normally through the corridor, in what had been heavily congested hours during the afternoon commute on Thursdays and Fridays.
I drove through the intersection heading east on Cowell just after 5 pm – there have been times when that intersection has been heavily impacted. However, not only was there no back up on Cowell, my view of Mace itself showed very little traffic backed up there either.
As I have noted previously, traffic in this area was extremely bad in the winter of 2017 as well, but things cleared up, for the most part, up until the last few months. To me that suggests that factors other than changes to the roadway are the culprit.
Having talked to both the mayor and Chief Pytel, I don’t really have a problem with their attempting to better structure the flow of traffic onto the highway – as that does seem to be a problem. But I do have a good deal of concern with the assumption or belief, without substantial additional study, that the current structure is a disaster.
The idea that we should go back to the way it was doesn’t make sense. That road design was obsolete for a long time before any of this happened.
We will now wait to see what the city has come up with.
—David M. Greenwald reporting