Commentary: In a Time of Road Rage, It is Important for Cooler Heads to Prevail

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The veteran columnist Bob Dunning wrote this weekend, “In five full decades of covering the comings and goings of the Very Important People in this town, I have never encountered as much hostility toward our elected officials over a single issue as I do today.”

While I think I’ve seen worse – this is definitely up there.

The Vanguard requested a sampling of emails received by public officials on the Mace Boulevard issue to illustrate where the anger and rhetoric is going (it is probably worth noting that any time you email a public official on a public policy issue, those emails are public record and disclosable under the California Public Records Act).

On Tuesday morning, one of the collectors of a petition that drew 499 signatures wrote: “Restoration of Mace Boulevard must include two lanes, both directions.  This is the only acceptable solution to the problem the City of Davis has created for the residents of South Davis.”

She then added, “We have collected 499 signatures in the last few weeks, representing 499 households negatively impacted by your ill-conceived and unwanted ‘improvements.’”

A resident of El Macero wrote that the changes made to Mace Blvd. have “been a very unpopular change” and she wrote asking the city to “post the meeting notifications several times so that more involved residents may attend.  It was one of the problems with the project in the first place.”

“Why are we continuing to complete this project in light of the community outrage that has been communicated to City Council and associated members? The current conditions have already created a more dangerous situation and has essentially created gridlock in this area. The entire community of El Macero, Willowbank, etc are now limited to one lane in and out. I personally have waited almost 40 minutes to go one block on several occasions,” another wrote.

They added: “While a lot of us appreciate the good intentions of this project it is clear that the design creates a more dangerous situation for all along, with virtual gridlock occurring mostly on Thursday and Fridays. However, it is often a challenge on all other days of the week beginning at about 4pm.”

They continued: “The engineer who designed this concept should be fired. Obviously not a lot of community feedback from local residents was requested.”

They conclude: “I do not live in South Davis or El Macero but I have traveled this road about 4 times weekly since 2006. I have never seen it this bad or dangerous. Yet it appears that the project is continuing with paving and striping. Hopefully I am missing something.”

Fanning the flames here was columnist Bob Dunning, who wrote that “this disaster is man-made. We did this to ourselves.”

He writes: “The reaction has been swift and certain, even from folks in El Macero, which is outside the city limits. El Macerites used to sit smugly in their homes and smile condescendingly when Davis would do something silly, secure in the knowledge that it wasn’t their problem.

“But it is now, given that Mace Boulevard fronts both entrances to El Macero, trapping residents in a traffic prison from which there is no escape.”

He quips that on parking the sentiment was running 5 to 1 against parking meters, and it is running 125-1 against this one.

The anger runs high for sure – but I think it is important for cooler heads to analyze the situation.  The residents are “demanding” that the road be restored to the previous flawed design.  The problem is, that is not really going to fix the problem.

Talking to one city official brought up the question of why we would want to return to a road design from the 1950s which wasn’t working well and won’t work well in the current climate.  They agreed that a good deal of the problem with this road is external to the design, but they also point out that the road design is failing to fix the problems as well.

I will make these critical points again.  First, as I noted previously, as I traveled from Harper Junior High to South Davis on Mace on a Thursday between 4 and 5 a few weeks ago, I was stuck in traffic for about 25 minutes.  While troubling, it clearly had nothing to do with the road design.

Second, as I noted previously as well, two years ago during this time of year, we had similar traffic congestion on Thursday and Friday afternoons, especially in South Davis as you got toward Mace – and again, at that point there were no road design changes.

Several of the problems appear to be: (1) heavy volume on I-80, (2) redirection of traffic from I-80 to the country roads that re-enter along Mace, and (3) the road design fails to funnel I-80 bound traffic away from local traffic.

Talking to some of the public officials, I see there is a sense that they might be able to restructure even the existing roadway fairly quickly to alleviate some of the situation.  There does not seem to be any sort of appetite to bring back the former structure – which also failed to address the modern traffic concerns.

It seems that we will have a better idea by May 15 what the city thinks it can and cannot do.  But those “demanding” that the only solution is to go back to four vehicle travel lanes are forgetting what the roads looked like back in January and February of 2017.

—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 thoughts on “Commentary: In a Time of Road Rage, It is Important for Cooler Heads to Prevail”

  1. Sharla Cheney

    Why not wait until it’s completed and the lights are fiddled with?  Last night it took me 20 minutes to get out of the parking garage on Howard and another 30 minutes to get to Pole Line Road down 5th.   Should 5th be returned to 4 lanes?   Don’t think so.  Now that the weather is improving, it’s time to switch to biking or walking.

    I’m all for putting in a stop light on the edge of town and “metering” the traffic that comes in from the South down Mace.  Slow it down and make the freeway the faster option.

     

  2. Darell Dickey

    Thank you for pointing out one important factor: Before construction of the redesign began, many of the same folks who are complaining now were complaining about how bad the *existing* situation was. I mean it was TERRIBLE and somebody should do something! WAZE was generally the target of the blame back then. And gridlock was the complaint. The locals wished to find a way to keep out the folks who were trying to avoid HWY 80 gridlock by detouring south of town and up Mace.

    But today that seems to have been forgotten, and now the only problem is that two travel lanes in each direction have become one. And it is loudly suggested that returning Mace to four lanes will be some sort of solution. Forgotten in all of this is that the impetus for the redesign all along has been trying to find a way to make access to Pioneer School safer and more comfortable for our school kids. We can debate if that was accomplished *after* we see what the design finally offers when done. As with all road design, the goal was NOT a zero sum game, but an improvement for everybody. Same as along 5th Street.

    The logic of the current complaints escapes me. But then so does the logic of yelling to keep the parking mess downtown the way it currently is (and subsequently making it worse by charging for off-street parking).

    1. Ron Glick

      Hi Darrell,

      For me the parking situation downtown wasn’t a problem and I don’t want to deal with meters.

      Anyway, could you please address the biking issues at Mace so I can better understand what the objectives were in the design?

      1. Richard McCann

        Ron

        For me the parking situation downtown wasn’t a problem and I don’t want to deal with meters.

        This is off topic, but why didn’t you make this statement in the discussion about parking issues here? Instead of pushing you for solutions, we instead would have pushed you for evidence that the parking peak load isn’t a problem. That would have been a very different discussion.

      2. Darell Dickey

        Hi Ron,

        I apologize for not having the time (nor honestly the inclination) to spend the time to answer fully.

        In general, the objective was to make this corridor safe and comfortable for the folks (mostly kids) walking and biking along and across Mace. Removing the free right turns, tightening the radius of turns, shortening the crossing distances, slowing and organizing the motor vehicles, adding bike/ped waiting areas, protecting the bike lane… these were all part of the plan. It’s similar to the successful (though still flawed in many ways!) 5th Street redesign from several years ago. In fact so similar that we heard many of the same complaints that have now proven to be unfounded.

        The main complaints about Mace that I hear from the folks who are yelling are quite off-base. There are significant problems with what has happened… but those are not what people are complaining about. But that happens when people lose something that they feel was their “right” to have. (four lanes for high-speed cars in this case).

         

        (And since we’re all touching on parking… while I understand that it may not have been a problem for YOU, the goal here is to make things better for the city as a whole… not for an individual. Having motor vehicles driven by frustrated drivers circling our downtown does not help anybody.)

  3. Ron Oertel

    From article:  ” . . . one of the collectors of a petition that drew 499 signatures wrote:”

    Not intended to make fun of the author (or the situation), but you’d think that they’d wait for just one more signature before writing.  🙂

     

  4. Craig Ross

    So the view of the neighbors is the old road was bad, the new roadway isn’t fixing the problems, so let’s go back to the bad?  Is that about right?

  5. Darell Dickey

    That’s pretty much how I understand it. Let’s spend a bunch of money to go back to the OLD bad that additionally was extra bad for our school kids.

  6. Alan Miller

    I pretty much agree.  Current: bad.  Old:  bad.  Mace:  bad.

    One solution would be to build a diagonal road from the west end of the causeway to the south end of Mace in Davis behind El Macero, for a few hundred million dollars.  Or, a new highway bypass from the west end of the causeway south to a point on I-80 south of Dixon, for a few billion dollars.  Case solved . . . in 2070.

    1. Ron Oertel

      I was going to suggest that they build a road THROUGH the causeway/wildlife area (for use during non-flood season), but quickly realized that it would ultimately have to reconnect with I-80, at both ends.

      Or, maybe some folks would just prefer to redirect and “trap” I-80 travelers within the causeway/wildlife area – and leave it at that?  Maybe some evil-minded programmer can come up with an app for that?  😉

      It does remind me of how some Pollock Pines residents apparently want to prevent skiers and others traveling to Tahoe from accessing their community during road closures, and keep the “problem” in Placerville. Can’t say that I blame them, after seeing what happened this past winter.

    2. David Greenwald

      Interesting – I met yesterday with a city official, who believes that they might be able to create a lane that goes directly to the freeway and allows the local traffic to move around the bottle neck.  We’ll see I guess in the next month.

      1. Ron Oertel

        A lane “carved out” from what? And, for what (specific) “local traffic”?

        And, what do they think the impact of that might be on other traffic?

        1. Ron Oertel

          Well, that should be “interesting”.

          Would it be a lane that connects with existing ramps, to the freeway?  If so, how would that work, e.g., where it interacts with other traffic?

          Is this a traffic engineer that you’re speaking with?

        2. Ron Oertel

          David:  “THey didn’t narrow the road unalterably.”

          It is “alterable”.  The question is would they have to pay back the SACOG-distributed funds, how much it would cost in ADDITION to that to make the changes, and actual/professional analysis of expected traffic/safety impacts which would result from further changes.

          In reference to the title, it seems to me that “cooler heads” are not yet prevailing.  🙂

        3. Ron Oertel

          By the way, are they continuing construction on the “current” improvements?  Or, has a halt on construction been requested? (I seem to recall something about this on the Enterprise, but not sure.)

          And, if a halt on work has been issued, I’m wondering if additional costs will be incurred as a result of a city-requested delay, if/when construction continues.

          1. David Greenwald Post author

            They completed the pavement today. The city manager told me it didn’t make sense to leave the road unpaved, and it wouldn’t prevent then from making changes later.

        4. Matt Williams

          To answer Ron’s question, the City’s contractor has used the past five days to lay the top layer of asphalt over the base layer.  Striping is next. Then traffic light timing adjustments.

          An e-mail was sent to some people (I did not receive one, even though I had registered).  My better half received one.

          From: Diane Parro <DParro@cityofdavis.org>
          Subject: ALERT – Mace/Cowell Paving 4/3 starting at 4:00 a.m. EXPECT MAJOR DELAYS
          Date: April 2, 2019 at 1:14:08 PM PDT
          To: Diane Parro <DParro@cityofdavis.org>

          Dear community members,

          Major paving work will occur tomorrow (Wednesday, April 3) on Mace Blvd. starting near the fire station at 4 a.m. and moving south. When the southbound lane is completed, work will move to the northbound lane. Travel will be permitted at all times but will be reduced to one lane in total with flaggers at each end to control flow. Work should be completed by the end of the day. Paving must be completed now and temporary striping will be added immediately with final striping to follow. Paving will provide a safer surface and reduce pooling of water. Striping will provide clarity and aid safety. None of these actions preclude any future changes to the design.
          More information about this project is on our website at http://www.cityofdavis.org/constructionprojects.  In addition, there are two community outreach meetings planned as noted below.

          Mace Blvd project community forum
          April 11th & May 15th
          6:00 p.m.
          Fire Station at the corner of Mace and Cowell Blvd.
           
          As Always,
          Diane

          Diane Parro
          Director of Community and Business Engagement
          (office) 530-757-5602
          (mobile) 530-220-3092
          City of Davis
          City Manager’s Office
          23 Russell Blvd, Suite 1
          Davis, CA 95616

      2. Alan Miller

        I can’t think of a real-world example of that in a residential neighborhood.  Doesn’t sound cheap, and I don’t think it’s realistic either.  But the cool thing is, it will allow people using WAZE to zip through Mace Blvd. at 65 mph and greatly increase the flow of WAZE traffic since the app will see the new run-through lane as very attractive to through traffic!!!!

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