After receiving complaints about changes to the Mace Boulevard roadway, the city has gone back to the drawing board and is laying out plans to fix some of the worst concerns including the congestion and frustration caused by the reduction from four vehicle travel lanes to two, difficulty making turns due to wide bulb-outs, and difficulty exiting San Marino onto Mace Blvd.
At the same time, the city also learned that many of the traffic issues existed prior to the project’s construction, that “Pioneer parents and children who bike to school like the new facilities and slower traffic.” And that biking to Pioneer Elementary School increased from a low of 10 percent in 2018 up to 27 percent in 2019.
For several months the city, and finally in May the city council, attempted to deal with overlapping and at times contradictory complaints and feedback.
As Mayor Brett Lee explained back in May, “I can tell you where the process went wrong before, I’ll be candid… the process went wrong when we would have average designs put before us and when we have average designs put before us, average people are able to make suggestions to slightly improve the average design.
“This is good, but I believe there’s better,” he said.
What the mayor was looking to do is to utilize the expertise of design firms that are meant to be the experts, and give them a broader range to address the concerns on Mace.
What the city is now looking to do is start piece by piece implementing changes that they hope can preserve some of the features that have allowed more bicyclists and parents to feel the roadway is safer, while reducing delays and frustrations for vehicular traffic.
Moving forward, the plan is to maintain “the original design intent.” But the hope is to “better balance the overall competing user groups’ needs: vehicles, bikes, agriculture, and pedestrians.”
The city also plans to engage with Caltrans about increasing HOV (high-occupancy vehicle) lane length, increasing the meter lane length and removing the HOV requirement, moving the meter lights closer to the freeway to increase vehicle storage and decreasing the meter time in order to release cars more quickly.
Among the changes they have authorized: First, reducing the concrete islands at intersections and along the corridor. Second, they would determine if metering at Montgomery would reduce traffic, as well as vehicles directed by navigation applications. Third, they will make modifications to be iterative – in other words, the plan is to “observe effects of one before implementing others.”
Among the possible changes at this point would be to restore the second northbound Mace travel lane between San Marino and Cowell Blvd. They would restore a second southbound travel lane. They would add a second left turn lane for Northbound Mace to Cowell Blvd which would require an extended left turn pocket, requiring tree removal. And they would create a dedicated right turn lane for northbound Mace to eastbound Cowell.
They would also, “Determine whether the shared-use path can create a wider bike lane on the west side of Mace so two-way bicycle traffic can continue from San Marino to Cowell.”
They would “widen the shared-use path on the east side of Mace to support two-way bike traffic.”
And they would “meter northbound Mace traffic at Montgomery during peak times.”
Among immediate actions: install temporary signals for metering at Montgomery, and paint “keep clear” on intersections and post signs. Install temporary cones in two-way left turn lane to keep vehicles from passing.
The city has received contradictory feedback. At several points they saw large numbers of people come to council demanding an immediate revision to the previous design.
As one letter writer noted: “In the first meeting we had with the city the manager said they have a grade for every street and intersection in Davis. When asked what our grade was on Mace he said it was a B! Not a D! Not an F but a B. We were doing fine. No one consulted us about any changes and in fact they didn’t consult the county.”
On the other hand, parents with children spoke out and had a different view.
One parent explained, “When I was chair of the bike program, we didn’t actually encourage more kids to bike and the reason was because we didn’t want to cause more safety issues because putting small kids out on Mace when there isn’t protection between the cars and the kids is a little dangerous.”
She said, “It’s four lanes of traffic and it’s a very fast road. People use it like a freeway.”
Another one said, “Mace before the project was terrifying.” He added, “There was no way that most people who live west of that street were going to allow their kids to go north or south on that street and then cross it.”
The mayor said he believed we should be able to both restore traffic capacity on Mace and have bicycle safety.
That is now what the city is aiming to do with their iterative series of proposed changes.
—David M. Greenwald reporting