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