By David M. Greenwald
Critics of the project point to 24,000 additional car trips as a huge impact of the project.
Proponents of the project note that this is the unmitigated impact.
There are clearly traffic concerns with the full build out of DISC. However, critics are reluctant to note that full build out is not likely to occur prior to at least 2043 and probably further out. By that time, the freeway expansion will have occurred.
Regardless, the EIR notes: “Implementation of Mitigation Measures 3-11 and 3-72(a) and (b) would include a large number of actions that would reduce impacts related not only to air quality and transportation, respectively, but also GHG emissions.”
In addition, “The TDM plan would serve to reduce the total number of vehicle trips to and from the site, through programs such as vanpooling programs, subsidies for transit, and parking management strategies. The effect of the strategies included in the TDM program would result in a reduction in overall VMT.”
The EIR further notes: “The TDM Program is intended to increase the average vehicle ridership (i.e., increase the number of people within each vehicle by promoting carpooling, vanpooling, etc.), reduce VMT, and reduce the overall number of vehicle trips related to ARC operations.”
The EIR also notes that regional growth which includes the DISC project, “would likely exacerbate the congested conditions previously identified by Caltrans. Additional employee and residential growth with the ARC Project would generate new peak period vehicle trips that would contribute to existing and future LOS F conditions on the I-80 mainline.”
It goes on to say that it would add “several hundred new peak hour vehicle trips between the project site and the I-80/CR 32A interchange located to the east of the project site. These trips would be generated by project employees and residents traveling between the project site and Sacramento (and surrounding communities) via the I-80 causeway.”
The impact and mitigation measures in the EIR are detailed and worth reading, but the bottom line: “The implementation of TDM strategies would reduce vehicle travel to and from the ARC Site on I-80 and lessen the project’s contribution to unacceptable LOS F conditions on I-80.”
But there is a good degree of uncertainty about the level of delay reduction.
The EIR writes: “Implementation of Mitigation Measures 3-72(a) and (b) would reduce project-generated VMT per service population by instituting a TDM program to reduce external vehicle trips generated by the ARC Project, as well as future development of the Mace Triangle Site.”
But because of that uncertainty, the VMT impacts “would be considered significant and unavoidable.”
The plan calls for a number of features: establishment of carpool, buspool, or vanpool programs, vanpool purchase incentives, cash allowances for public transit, parking management strategies including limiting parking supply or providing parking cashout programs, parking subsidies for rideshare vehicles, alternative workweek and flex-time schedules, telecommuting, on-site meals and commercial services, on-site day care facilities, bicycle programs, car share and bike share services, enhancements to bus and Capitol Corridor among other required steps.
The project baseline features require the Transportation Demand Management Plan (TDM) to be “adopted and implemented requiring specific targeted reductions in vehicle use.” There would be a TDM manager that would report to the Master Owners Association and the city “to track progress on actions to improve mobility and reduce traffic impacts.”
On roadways, DISC will be required to construct or fund improvement to capacity on Mace as well as side roads if needed to address traffic generated by the project. They will fund “traffic calming” plan, create a comprehensive Mace Blvd Corridor Plan for bike and ped travel and construct safety improvements at County Roads 32A and 105 at the UPRR crossing.
The opposition to DISC are naturally skeptical of this plan.
In the ballot argument they point out: “DISC is predicted to add more than 24,000 daily car trips onto Mace Blvd. when completed. But instead of guaranteeing specific reductions of this huge traffic burden on an already overly congested thoroughfare, the City is only requiring DISC to create a future Transportation Demand Management Program. But ‘figuring it all later’ is not a plan.”
And they have a point here. A reasonable question is why not develop the TDM prior to the Measure J vote and the answer is that traffic management will depend on what gets built here first, and putting together a specific management plan prior to knowing what companies are likely to locate here and how large they will be would make the actual build out difficult if not impossible.
They have a point as well. That is the hard part of Measure J requirements—they need to be specific enough to provide guarantees to the community while being flexible enough to make the project buildable.
But at the same time, the opponents are missing that there is a good deal of required mitigation that is written into the language of the EIR and enforced through the Project Baseline features.
Again, 3-72(a) requires: “Prior to issuance of the first building permit in the first phase of development, the applicant shall develop a TDM program for the entire ARC Project, including any anticipated phasing, and shall submit the TDM program to the City Department of Public Works for review and approval.”
Among other things that are required: reduction of trips to achieve 1.5 ABR in accordance with the Davis Municipal Code and “(r)Reduce project-generated VMT such that the project achieves all three VMT significance criteria.”
And 3-75(a) requires: “Prior to issuance of the first certificate of occupancy of the ARC Project, the applicant shall construct the following proposed off-site bicycle and pedestrian facilities to the satisfaction of the Public Works Department” and the “applicant shall construct the following… facilities..” prior to the certificate of occupancy. They are required to build from their own funds—“the applicant shall contribute fair share funding to cover their proportionate cost of the following improvements”—not the Roadway impact fees.
Further, per 3-75(c) they are required to “identify and construct complete streets improvements on the Mace Boulevard corridor.”
In addition, fees are locked into this process as well. The Project Baseline features commits them to contribute Roadway Impact fees in addition to mitigating their own impact. EPS on Table B-23, estimates about $78 million in roadway impact fees. Those dollars according to Page 73 of the City Council Staff report and the Development Agreement must be prioritized for Mace Blvd and other roads near the project site.
EPS, Table B-23 also shows $15 million in city construction tax revenues and $250,000 a year in assessment revenues under the Development Agreement that will be used for bike, ped and other transportation improvements (See Page 75 in the Council Staff report again, the DA).
Is that enough? Is there enough teeth in this agreement and yet is it flexible enough to be able to accommodate a vast array of companies and projects likely to come their way? The bottom line is that the voters will have a choice to make here.
Project proponents argue: “The 24,000 trips cited is highly misleading. This is the unmitigated estimate which just looks at plopping the project on top of existing conditions in Davis without changing anything. It does not look at any of the mitigation measures the DISC will provide.”
That point is largely accurate. The problem that critics will have is how much that reduction will be and the answer to that is: we don’t know.
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