$86 Million Approved to Upgrade the I-80 Corridor in Yolo County

By David M. Greenwald

Yolo County – With the economy re-opening, the reprieve that Davis felt for the last 15 months or so with regard to traffic backing up from I-80 bottlenecks at the Causeway—and causing spillover impacts on local roads like Mace—could be letting up.

While the city has pledged to restructure Mace to hopefully alleviate some jam, the longer term fix is likely to free up traffic on I-80, some of which backs up from the Causeway.  The long-term fix is more vehicle travel lanes and that just got a big boost in the form of a grant to CalTrans.

On Wednesday, Representative John Garamendi, who represents Davis and much of Yolo County in Congress, announced that the United States Department of Transportation has awarded an $85.9 million Infrastructure for Rebuilding America (INFRA) Grant to the Yolo County Transportation District and the California Department of Transportation’s (Caltrans) District 3 application to improve and expand 17 miles of the Interstate 80 and U.S. Highway 50 corridors in Yolo and Sacramento Counties.

“Today’s announcement is a major victory for our region,” Garamendi said. “I have spent years advocating for this project alongside state and local partners, and today’s announcement is a culmination of that advocacy.”

Garamendi joined state, county, and city partners in advocating for this grant when he wrote to U.S. Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg in March to support the project and request approval of the INFRA Grant application.

“The $85.9 million in federal funding will be used to reduce congestion on Interstate 80 and U.S. Highway 50 by creating new managed lanes along 17 miles of highway,” according to a release.. “New pedestrian and bicycle facility improvements, as well as intelligent transportation system elements such as ramp meters and changeable message signs, will also be installed.”

In a March letter to Buttigieg, Garamendi wrote: “The I-80 corridor improvement project area is the primary roadway connecting the Bay Area to Sacramento and an important route for regional commuter and freight traffic currently experiencing heavy congestion.”

If approved, Garamendi said, “federal grant funding for the proposed project will significantly reduce congestion on the freeway by utilizing an innovative managed lanes approach.”

In his view, “The project will also directly benefit the critical east-west movement of goods in northern California from the Port of Oakland and San Francisco Bay Area to the Port of West Sacramento and greater Sacramento region.”

As explained, the proposed project includes constructing 17 center lane miles of new managed lanes, new pedestrian and bicycle facility improvements, and intelligent transportation system elements such as ramp meters and changeable message signs.

On Wednesday Garamendi reiterated, “This project will greatly improve traffic flow across the Yolo Bypass, reduce greenhouse gas emissions, and improve agricultural and manufactured goods movement to the Port of Oakland, Port of West Sacramento, the San Francisco Bay Area, and the greater Sacramento region.

“This is a boon for our environment and our economy, and every part of the Northern California Megaregion is well-served by this significant announcement. Thank you to the Yolo County Transportation District, Caltrans District 3, Sacramento Area Council of Governments, and every other advocate and partner who helped make this day possible,” Garamendi concluded.

In November of 2018, Caltrans hosted an open house at the Blanchard Room.  At that time, city officials expected that the project was at least ten years out.

In the meantime, as Adrian Engel from Fehr & Peers pointed out, “some of the congestion can be mitigated with the solutions that we have, but all of it will not be mitigated.” The key is there will be “freeway congestion that causes queuing onto the corridor.”

He explained that he and his team got onto the freeway during peak time to validate that the freeway was not the fastest way to get from Dixon to the Causeway. Five of them traveled at the same time through different routes to see if the apps and maps and Waze “were telling us the true story.”

Traveling on the freeway was indeed the longest time. Some of the other routes “were definitely faster than the freeway.” The fastest they found was Highway 113 and County Road 29 to bypass the queue. They found that to be almost 15 minutes faster.

“There are multiple ways that can be used to bypass this freeway traffic,” he said. “The software that’s giving you these alternate routes is true and we have verified are actually faster. Ultimately the solution for this problem is going to fix I-80 and getting that traffic to flow better to keep cars on the freeway. Because if you fix Mace or do something to Mace, it may just cause traffic to go in other places.”

While the project now has funding, this is still not expected to be a short-term fix.

“This project will benefit the entire region by reducing congestion and greenhouse gas emissions, improve goods movement and transit operations, and enable smoother travel across the Yolo Bypass. Many partners have worked for years to bring this forward.  Special thanks go to the Caltrans District 3, Yolo Transportation and SACOG teams and Congressman Garamendi for bringing this resource to our region,” said Don Saylor, Yolo County Supervisor.

“The announcement of this grant award is huge news for Davis and Yolo County, and the I80/Causeway expansion project is essential to improving regional transportation options throughout the Northern California Megaregion. We undertook a collaborative team effort approach in advocating for this project, and I look forward to it bringing needed relief to our communities,” said Lucas Frerichs, Vice Mayor of Davis and 2020 Sacramento Area Council of Governments Board Chair.

—David M. Greenwald reporting

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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31 Comments

    1. Bill Marshall

      Actually, it’s the transportation equivalent of the “Peter Principle”… ‘every roadway expands to its greatest level of congestion’…

      The causeway isn’t that bad, unless there’s a crash… the bad spots are where WB 80 meets 50/80, and where W Capitol meets WB 80… the merging, and the opportunities to ‘lane shift’ is what leads to the congestion… and the crashes… which then cause more congestion/delay… same on EB 80 coming up to Richards… too many opportunities to lane shift, and jerks who figure if they can change lanes often enough, they can gain 2-3 car lengths, and maybe save a minute or two on their total trip time…

      “To every solution, there is a problem”…

    2. Dave Hart

      That is what the “Mace Mess” crowd seems to advocate.  If your bottom line for transportation is to be able to go where you want within a minimum time frame as established by auto travel in “the old days”, more roadway is the solution.

      1. David Greenwald

        Which raises an important point the city has in essence done the same thing twice – first by making the changes without giving sufficient consideration to all the stakeholders and then by reverting back to traffic lanes.  At no point did the city attempt to figure out what their vision for the future was…

  1. Alan Pryor

    According to Dr. Susan Hardy of the UC Davis National Center for Sustainable Transportation in an article entitled Increasing Highway Capacity Unlikely to Relieve Tarffic Congestion (https://escholarship.org/uc/item/58x8436d),

    Reducing traffic congestion is often proposed as a solution for improving fuel efficiency and reducing greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions. Traffic congestion has traditionally been addressed by adding additional roadway capacity via constructing entirely new roadways, adding additional lanes to existing roadways, or upgrading existing highways to controlled-access freeways. Numerous studies have examined the effectiveness of this approach and consistently show that adding capacity to roadways fails to alleviate congestion for long because it actually increases vehicle miles traveled (VMT).

    An increase in VMT attributable to increases in roadway capacity where congestion is present is called “induced travel”. The basic economic principles of supply and demand explain this phenomenon: adding capacity decreases travel time, in effect lowering the “price” of driving; and when prices go down, the quantity of driving goes up. Induced travel counteracts the effectiveness of capacity expansion as a strategy for alleviating traffic congestion and offsets in part or in whole reductions in GHG emissions that would result from reduced congestion.

    Be careful what you wish for.

    1. Bill Marshall

      Alan P… your cite (Reader’s Digest version), and the bases of the deeper cites, are flawed… more statistical analyses, than ‘root cause’ based… they are correct that additional capacity does not solve congestion… they are “shallow” and neglect the root causes… merges, and lane changing opportunities…

      It is driver behavior, travel demand, not capacity, and ‘stupids’ (goes to driver behavior) that are the root causes of congestion…

    2. Alan Miller

      All true on ‘induced congestion’ front . . . over and over.  And WM above cites congestion to the east, but don’t forget the congestion to the southwest . . . Kidwell Road, 505/80, 12/80/680, Vallejo . . . we’ll just push the plug to the next bottleneck . . . unless it’s all widened at the cost of tens of billion$.

  2. Alan Pryor

    It is driver behavior, travel demand, not capacity, and ‘stupids’ (goes to driver behavior) that are the root causes of congestion…

    Is there any quantitative proof to support this statement? I would prefer  statistical analyses (even if “flawed“)  rather than your casual observations to substantiate your statement.

  3. Ron Oertel

    The $86 million does not cover the entire cost of the project, which is estimated to be $140 million.

    So, I guess we’ll see how soon the remainder of the funding is obtained.

    “If you choose to use the managed lane during peak hours, there will be pricing involved,” Saylor said.

    Sounds like a “regressive” tax, falling disproportionately on the poor (and/or cheapskates).  No doubt, there will be some frustrated drivers in the remaining “third world” lanes.

    In the meantime, more -and-more traffic as a result of additional development throughout the region.  There isn’t likely going to be a long-term improvement. The more you enable traffic, the more you get. Proven over-and-over, regardless of location. But, especially in a region that’s continuing to grow/sprawl.

    Hence the need to add the “other” new freeway in the area, providing access to the new developments in the Folsom area.

    On Wednesday Garamendi reiterated, “This project will greatly improve traffic flow across the Yolo Bypass, reduce greenhouse gas emissions . . .”

    https://www.sacbee.com/news/local/transportation/back-seat-driver/article252451038.html

    “Who knew” that adding freeway lanes leads to fewer greenhouse gasses.  Perhaps the same type of analysis can be used to justify a subsequent 5,000-plus parking lot development as one of those to take advantage of the “savings”.

    As they say, “the more you buy, the more you save”.

     

  4. Craig Ross

    Big error in the environmental movement view of acting locally when it comes to climate change.  Things like development, traffic, and air quality are in fact a zero sum game.  You are literally moving pieces on a chessboard.  So if you build more somewhere, that doesn’t impact climate change because you are not actually increasing global population.

  5. Craig Ross

    Can you imagine, the state is trying to create ways to produce more housing and we want the people building that housing to pay the costs of the freeway needs so that people can get from their homes to jobs.  There is no logic here.

  6. Don Shor

    This is great news. Thanks to all who moved quickly and effectively to secure funding to move this managed-lane project forward and speed up the timetable.

    It’s crucial to keep our interstate freeways moving freely. I-80 is a critical corridor for movement of goods and people. I am unaware of ‘induced traffic’ studies that pertain to a major interstate freeway where a city has just one reasonable  point of entry. The only alternate east-west routes are quite cumbersome and inefficient. Induced traffic assumes reasonable choices are available.

    Our region is expected to grow and traffic management needs to adjust accordingly.

    Worth pointing out with respect to climate change: I-80 is the major method of egress in the event of catastrophic regional flooding, which will occur*.  Our interstate system was originally built due to Eisenhower’s experience moving troops and hardware across country in WWII, and he considered it a matter of national security. That security (not military, but climate-related) aspect of our major interstate transportation probably will take on more importance over the coming decades.

    * (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Great_Flood_of_1862)

     

    1. Alan Miller

      This is great news.

      Thank you, Mr. Concrete.  First support for Sites Reservoir and now this.  You must be a big fan of John “Cement Mixer” Garamendi and his ties to Teichert and Tsopodopolus (sic, sick).

      Our interstate system was originally built due to Eisenhower’s experience moving troops and hardware across country in WWII

      You site a Republican war hero as inspiration for expansion of roads?  You know what else is part of the national defense system?  Railroads.  What Eisenhower did was build a massive interstate system that devestated landscapes and inner-city (usually poor) areas, expanded sprawl and killed our rail systems.  Meanwhile, Europe and Japan (with lots of US rebuild money) built the most glorious passenger rail systems in the world.

      On what planet do you live that expanding the highway has ever been a solution to transportation or congestion?   I take it you are not an environmentalist.

       

  7. Ron Oertel

    Also seems to me that the new developments (which are directly creating the additional need) should be the ones paying the cost, rather than the federal or state government.

    The failure to allocate cost to those creating the need is a primary reason that freeways cause sprawl.  Developers/landowners take advantage of the increased access, without paying for it.

    As an example, it’s likely that one of the factors for the selection of the technology center site in Woodland is the “free” freeway access, on what is (at this point) still a relatively uncongested freeway (Highway 113).  (Which, by the way will also impact I-80 and the causeway.)

    The entire situation seems very similar to government paying the cost of levees, to make land “developable” for private developers.

    There’s reasons that developers are often quite wealthy.

    Big error in the environmental movement view of acting locally when it comes to climate change.

    Yeah, better “wait for the world” to do it.  Might as well get rid of that wussy Prius, and get yourself a Hummer!

    Things like development, traffic, and air quality are in fact a zero sum game.

    Good to know -it’s hopeless.

    You are literally moving pieces on a chessboard.

    “If we don’t do it, someone else will.  Might as well be us”.

    So if you build more somewhere, that doesn’t impact climate change because you are not actually increasing global population.

    Global population is indirectly related to climate change.  Increased development (and the type of development) in conjunction with population changes is what causes increased greenhouse gasses.  For example, if everyone lived like Native Americans did (originally), doubling that population would not cause significant climate change.  Then again, the earth won’t support billions of people that way, nor is it likely that societies will willingly pursue that.  Unless it’s ultimately forced to, to some degree.

    Reminds me of this saying:  If there’s a World War III, what will World War IV use for weapons?  (The answer is “sticks and stones”.)

     

  8. Alan Pryor

    So if you build more somewhere, that doesn’t impact climate change because you are not actually increasing global population.

    This is not a  true statement. If you “build more somewhere” that causes people to drive farther to get to there compared to driving to a location closer to them, it increases per capita and total VMT which increases both per capita and total pollution and greennhouse gas emissions even though population may not change

     

     

      1. Richard_McCann

        Craig

        Alan said “if” which also concedes your point that they might be moving closer. In fact, smarter development such as increasing available jobs closer to residences can lead to reduced environmental impacts. Also increasing density to make transit more viable can have a similar effect. That’s one of the rationales for increasing business development in Davis.

  9. Richard_McCann

    One quick fix would be to restripe the lanes between 113 and the Richards Blvd exit so that Davis 113 drivers don’t need to merge before exiting. 20 years ago when the freeway was temporarily restriped this way during the construction of the bike underpass, it relieved congestion on that stretch, but the Caltrans engineers stupidly went back to the old set up. WB80 appears to have a similar problem and solution at the merge with 50. Many of the problems arise from poorly conceived/designed intersections around the state by Caltrans.

    Much of the congestion comes from the last 5% of the added traffic. The margin of error disappears so that traffic disruptions are magnified.

    Congestion isn’t caused by added capacity, but it is well demonstrated that added capacity always leads to increased traffic (unless it’s toll lanes being added–pricing works) which in turn ultimately creates congestion again. But as I pointed out above, poor design also can enhance congestion, such as expanding from three to four to six lanes and then rapidly shrinking to three lanes over just a few miles.

    And for some reason, the lift onto the EB Causeway creates much of the congestion. Perhaps the roadway should be ramped up more gently (but that likely is a construction nightmare.)

    1. Don Shor

      Congestion isn’t caused by added capacity, but it is well demonstrated that added capacity always leads to increased traffic (unless it’s toll lanes being added–pricing works)

      A toll lane is what’s being added.
      I certainly hope some funds can be used to improve the whole area where Richards comes on to Westbound 80 and where 113 splits off.

      On Wednesday, Rep. Garamendi revealed one of the big changes that would be part of the project: 17 miles of toll lanes from the Yolo/Solano County line to Sacramento.
      “Traditional HOV for 3 or more people and then for those people who possibly, this has not been decided, people that want to be a single-car like the Bay Area, you may have the option to pay for that privilege,” he explained.

      The toll lanes would stretch from I-80 through Davis to West El Camino Avenue and Interstate 5 at Highway 50. They would be the first toll lanes to appear in the Sacramento area.
      “This not only allows us to move the freight through this corridor which connects the port of Oakland, the port of San Francisco to the rest of the nation but also the recreational travel,” said Amarjeet Benipal, Caltrans District 3 Director.
      CBS13 asked Caltrans why they would ask drivers to pay? Benipal said it could help reduce congestion even more.
      “The majority of the congestion we experience is not only in the morning and afternoon but post-pandemic traffic even happens during lunchtime. So, we wanted to make sure that the travelers have travel options,” said Benipal.
      Other parts of the project include re-striping to add lanes on some parts of the stretch and installing meters on more onramps.

      https://sacramento.cbslocal.com/2021/07/01/sacramento-davis-yolo-causeway-grant-toll-lanes-project/

      1. Alan Pryor

        They would be the first toll lanes to appear in the Sacramento area.

        I do not believe that paid access to the HOV lanes for rich drivers meets the spirit of an “Equitable and Just Transition” demanded by Yolo County’s Emergency Climate Mobilization Resolution.

      2. Dave Hart

        I travel the 680 corridor frequently to visit my father in Gilroy and the toll lanes are an interesting social experiment.  I have stickers on my electric car that allow me to drive in the toll lanes without paying extra.  Even so, I observe the occasional driver in the toll lane plodding along at the speed limit and watch as the non-toll lanes move along at 70 or 75.  While there are a few instances where the toll lanes took off the pressure and allow traffic in that lane to speed ahead, it is always amazing to me at how most of the time, the speed in the toll lanes approaches the same speed as the all the other lanes.  I have to agree it is the mindset of drivers that affects the flow of traffic.  We can choose to get our undies in a bundle or sit back and enjoy the latest and favorite podcast.  It’s always really been about our own choices.

        1. Richard_McCann

          First, as much as I generally support transit, it will never be a significant contribution to solving traffic problems in this region unless we accept a radical change in land use. Transit only works well in densely populated communities where individuals can walk easily to a stop and numbers can support sufficiently robust scheduling. (I relied on transit in Oakland and Seattle where these conditions were met.) Further, the rise of the dual income household has created the situation where it is most likely that those jobs are located a significant distance from the other and at least one of residents must commute. Without convenient transit, they will drive or carpool (with carpooling being dependent on employees living close to each other.)

          Such radical changes in land use have two problems: (1) they will occur on a decadal scale and we don’t have decades, and (2) there is substantial political resistance to the even marginal changes being proposed now. It will likely be a decade before we can even start.

          So we are left with only one real option in reducing GHG emissions relatively quickly–driving automobile emissions toward zero while continuing to rely on that auto for most of our travel. Which means that we need to figure out how to cause drivers to choose when to make trips most efficiently.

          That answer is fairly obvious – pricing in some form. Those prices can be in toll lanes or in parking spaces. Both have been shown to be quite effective at reducing vehicle miles travelled (VMT). We using prices to allocate almost every other resources and service in our economy, even including health care (which has its problems with market failures that we have not yet addressed adequately, but that’s a different discussion.)

          Yes, those who are wealthier can afford it better, but that also can be addressed. Of course, the best solution is the act as we did during the nation’s economy from the 1940s to 1970s and assertively redistributed income from the wealthy. (And that also is a different discussion.) But failing that, we can provide free or discounted toll passes to those with less income. For example, we could provide low income workers (qualified through SNAP or CARE) with a “book” of 20 passes a month that they can use to drive to work, but also have to manage efficiently. Or we can simply give them a discount off the toll as we do with electricity and gas rates (PG&E’s CARE customers use on average the same amount of electricity as standard rate customers, showing that the discounts effectively counterbalance the income differences between the groups.)

          Queuing (which is a fancy word for using traffic jams to allocate lane space) is a very inefficient and frustrating way to discourage driving. Let’s use a much better alternative.

        2. Ron Oertel

          Queuing (which is a fancy word for using traffic jams to allocate lane space) is a very inefficient and frustrating way to discourage driving. Let’s use a much better alternative.

          “Queuing” will remain for the “unwashed masses”, who won’t (or can’t) pay for the first-class lane.  And those folks will also be impacted by the “first-class” travelers entering and exiting the freeway.

          For that matter, even the first-class users will have to deal with the unwashed masses, as they enter/exit the freeway. Unless they also have their own, dedicated access/entry lanes to avoid crossing over the lanes that the unwashed masses are in – which isn’t likely.

          Now, if they made the entire thing a toll road, that might be different.

  10. Ron Oertel

    The $86 million does not cover the entire cost of the project, which is estimated to be $140 million.

    Assuming that they obtain the remainder of these funds at some point, what happens if the cost (by that time) turns out to be more than $140 million? And for that matter, what if it already is?

    From what I’ve observed of “normal” carpool lanes, it’s often difficult to get access them (on, or off) from the other “third world” lanes, due to differences in speed and flow.  Since the distance from Davis to Sacramento is relatively short, it might be challenging to use such a lane for that trip, since this generally requires using the other lanes to exit/enter the freeway itself.  (Assuming that one is willing to pay the cost to do so in the first place.)

    Also leading to congestion in the “third world” lanes as a result of that merging traffic (from the “first-class” travelers).

     

    1. Bill Marshall

      Unless it is a barricaded ‘toll lane’, I see no reason to believe that enforcement will be greater, or more effective than the use of the current ‘car-pool’ lanes… the monitoring and enforcement will be a significant, on-going expense…

      Alan M makes a good point about coming in on-ramp and getting to it, in the first place… getting out of it, and taking an exit from the highway is ripe for lots of lane-changing and crashes…

      Am thinking “do nothing” and let folk change their behavior as to timing of trips or number of trips might be the right answer…

  11. Todd Edelman

    Woah, sorry I missed this discussion.

    I appreciate most the words of Alan Miller, Alan Pryor and Richard McCann. I hope I can add something below.

    The MTC area gets a lot of income from its bridges, and uses it for public transportation. Consider that Davis and SACOG-area drivers pay into this when driving south to San Jose, west to Oakland and San Francisco, and so on, but people from those areas make no similar contribution our region – really, the east side of the Northern California Megaregion – when traveling to Davis or Sac or of course towards Lake Tahoe.

    Caltrans dropped the long-promised new bike-ped bridge across the Bypass, replaced by some improvements on the west side of the Bypass. Combined with new infrastructure such as separated lanes and a lot of shade trees in West Sac,  the  whole corridor could be optimized for faster e-bikes and provide a good alternative for many, especially in east and the east part of South Davis. But… nope! Or so it seems.

    The graphics in the Caltrans presentation on the Yolo 80 Corridor planned for the BTSSC meeting this Thursday show only buses in the managed lanes, which is not what’s really planned for the managed lanes. Nasty! The managed lanes are mostly in added lanes, and if these lanes are available for private vehicles off-peak, for a premium, or free for a carpool then induced demand principles apply and we eventually lose.

    It’s also not clear how this project interfaces with the 80-Richards project.

    It’s not clear how much congestion there will be during the long construction period.

    It’s not clear if any general re-paving will decrease noise (new technology makes this possible).

    It’s probably unlikely that Caltrans will support a discount on Capitol Corridor during the construction period.

    But yeah, rail. What’s up with the future Capitol Corridor improvements? How does this project related to our impending new General Plan? My favorite idea is to build a highway bypass south of town and then put the railway below grade so that it also no long splits the City in two (in retrospect, it would probably have been better to not build anything south of the 80-rail corridor). Anyway, all the new space roughly in the center of Davis could be the location of a lot of new dense, mixed-use development which could facilitate low-vehicle ownership or at least use, as it would eventually be convenient to UCD and Downtown by bike, to both Sacramento and especially the Railyards, and to points to the west by rail. It would also be much quieter in parts of the City with this sort of ring-road solution. In general terms it would complement my concept for building above 113 roughly between Russell and Covell.

    Related to this whole thing and that last point, over three years ago when I was on the BTSSC I initiated a sub-committee on 80 and related. It never went anywhere and was dissolved as the other Commissioner to join it moved to Sacramento and no one else on the Commission wanted to pursue this. Sigh.

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