Monday Morning Thoughts: Mace Solution Represents a Good Balance, We’ll See the Result

By David M. Greenwald
Everyday Injustice

Davis, CA – The new proposed configuration for Mace seems like a reasonable arrangement—it eventually adds traffic lanes both north and southbound while still keeping bicycle lanes and protection for other modes of transportation intact.

While it was easy to point the finger at the road reconfiguration a few years ago for causing the traffic delays, especially in the pm on Thursdays and Fridays, in some respects the traffic impact started well before that and was the result of traffic congestion on I-80 as well—as traffic bypassing that congestion using Tremont Road to skirt around it and ending up pouring volumes of traffic on Mace.

As such the addition of travel lanes on Mace might help somewhat with congestion, but during those times when I-80 is at a standstill, only marginally so.

As the traffic engineer from Fehr & Peers noted back in 2019, “What we’re seeing it’s about a 10-minute difference.”  So, by getting off at Dixon and instead of traveling east on 80, the vehicles are saving about 10 minutes of time.

And so there might be a problem here as he pointed out at the time: “Anything that we do along this corridor to make it faster to get up Mace from south of Montgomery all the way up to the freeway will potentially draw more traffic off of 80 onto Mace.”

The solutions they want are to help the local community get through Mace better, “but dissuade some of the regional cut through traffic that’s using Mace as a bypass for 80.”

This has been a point I have been trying to make for several years now—you can’t solve Mace by only addressing road capacity on Mace.

One big piece of that puzzle is outside of our hands—that is the I-80 corridor.

Last summer, for instance, the US Department of Transportation 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.

According to Congressman Garamendi, “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.”

But of course that has the same risk as simply expanding capacity on Mace—you open up capacity and incentivize more traffic entering the roadway.

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.”

One of the solutions that the city has come up with in their Mace plan is to attempt to slow some of that traffic from Tremont entering Mace.

As a second phase, they will install a pilot project metering traffic light simulation at Tremont and Mace and 30 days later at Montgomery and Mace.

According to the city, “City will pay the costs. City and county will each independently determine whether or not to commit to a permanent project based upon factors such as traffic improvement, impact of the signal on residents and businesses and any unintended consequences.”

“For the Mace corridor, the integration of a signal to meter the flow of vehicles before they enter the corridor is crucial to eliminating cut-through traffic trying to skirt I-80,” Mike Webb explained. “The traffic modeling suggests metering is key. The current plans integrate pilot metering signals at two locations, Tremont and Montgomery, so we can test this in the real world before investing in a full permanent signal.”

This is probably the best we can hope for.  The city is expanding capacity on Mace.  The city is metering the traffic coming from Tremont.  And CalTrans is expanding capacity on I-80.

Will that fix the traffic problems?  Probably not.  But it will mean that perhaps most days traffic congestion will not be a problem on Mace.  We’ll see.

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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  1. Alan Miller

    they will install a pilot project metering traffic light simulation at Tremont and Mace and 30 days later at Montgomery and Mace.

    How about a sniper at Montgomery and Mace?  That would ease traffic over time by reducing road demand, focusing on those who cut through on Tremont and Mace.

    Another solution is a wall between Solano County and Yolo County.  We’ve seen how effective walls have been throughout history.  It’s time for the Great Putah Wall.

    1. Ron Oertel

      The idea behind that is to “keep ’em on I-80”.  The gridlock that they were attempting to avoid in the first place.

      I’m *sure* that will help those attempting to get on I-80 from Mace.

      1. Alan Miller

        I’m just not sure you can meter a 10-15 delay Tremont/Mace that will cause the traffic apps to recommend staying on I-80.  And what about more poor smo who lives in farmhouse in South Yolo or north Solano counties and works in Davis . . . so they sit at a metering light for 10 minutes?  I wonder if Solano County will complain about this.

        1. Don Shor

          And what about more poor smo who lives in farmhouse in South Yolo or north Solano counties and works in Davis . . .

          We know how to get to Davis without going on the freeway.

        2. Ron Oertel

          We know how to get to Davis without going on the freeway.

          And so do a lot of others, especially in the “days of Waze”.

          Though truthfully, Davis is “in the way”, of where they’re going. Often times, so is the entire Sacramento region.

          Hence, the problem.  🙂

          1. Don Shor

            As does everyone with a smart phone.

            The apps don’t send them the way I go. They send them on Tremont.

    2. Ron Oertel

       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.

      Ultimately, right back at Mace (and DiSC), unless they head up to I-5 toward Sacramento. In which case they wouldn’t exit at Road 29.


      But hey, it’s “entertainment”, if you can stay out of it (and just watch). At least, that’s how I see it when traversing the overpasses.

  2. Dave Hart

    The original Mace Blvd project goal was to make Mace less of a mental and safety barrier to kids riding or biking to school at Pioneer Elementary. Adding additional lanes of traffic retreats from that goal so as to mollify automobilists.  Pioneer elementary is in the “wrong” place.  Short of moving the school, transforming Mace Blvd into something like a “normal” street was entirely reasonable.  People who want to live on the fringes of town where they are dependent on their cars sets the stage for the problem of how to meet a goal (pedestrian and bike friendly street) that is at odds with the very way of life and attitude of those who choose to live a car-centric existence where getting places as quickly as possible by car at any time of day is the ideal life style.  This conflict was only a matter of time whether it had to do with I-80 or just more development with more people in cars and a diminishing sense of accommodating anyone NOT in a car.

    1. Alan Miller

      Pioneer elementary is in the “wrong” place.

      So the school is in the wrong place (it is in a pretty stupid location – out in a very alt-transportation unfriendly fringe of Davis).

      People who want to live on the fringes of town where they are dependent on their cars sets the stage for the problem

      So the people live in the wrong place.

      Maybe Davis is in the wrong place.

      But I agree, going back to four lanes isn’t going to solve the issue.

      I much agreed with the idea of a bike track on the west side suggest by a DE letter writer so people don’t have to cross Mace twice to get from their house to shopping.

      Is there a link to the plan so we can see more of the plan than just the intersection drawing?


      1. Dave Hart

        There were some legitimate complaints particularly for people trying to exit neighborhoods from San Marino and Redbud but the demand by some to restore dedicated right turn lanes are so patently hostile to pedestrians at intersections, particularly kids, that I do hope the city council people can resist back pedaling, so to speak.

  3. Bill Marshall

    The apps don’t send them the way I go. They send them on Tremont.

    Exactly why I don’t use apps for normal driving… I use my ‘pre-loaded’ program, known as ‘Common Sense’… if more folk had that program, they’d change routes, or times of travel… choices… in this sense, am ‘pro-choice’

    But few will…

  4. Todd Edelman

    YCTD and Caltrans District 3 are being very cagey about what they really want for I-80: Lexus Lanes, like on 680. So people who can afford to get to drive fast through Davis.  At the same time, SF (north Peninsula)-Davis/Sacramento commuters pay two tolls, and East Bay-Davis/Sac commuters pay one.. and none of this goes for transit in the SACOG. It all goes to MTC, and Bay Area (West Megaregion) transit. I don’t even think that anything goes directly to Capitol Corridor. We need a toll at the Causeway, because it’s a bridge. It doesn’t have to be regressive. At a recent presentation the head of YCTD said that this is the future, but it’s not politically feasible now to make people pay for what once was “free”. What a sad and stupid world we live in.

    When I lived in Prague, every winter Friday after school there’s be buses taking kids and families to ski resorts in nearby mountains.  How many people travel by transit or private coaches to ski areas in or near Tahoe?

    There needs to be an ag-specific asphalt road extending generally east from Montgomery, meeting 32B at the entrance to EB I-80.  This can be limited access – i.e. to allow access to the few people who live around there – but should only allow ag vehicles east of roughly El Macero. It can be smartly combined with a fully physically-separated cycle way in the same corridor and a physically-separated cycle way to the Bypass path. This makes a bike commute to the east and recreational journey to northeast of I-80 and Mace much easier and safer. Combining the two accesses different financial sources and solves multiple problems. It should obviously be part of the I-80 project, but this is the first you’re seeing of this concept!

    Thanks to Commenters for more deeply acknowledging that transportation by bike from this part of “Greater Davis” is unlikely for someone who has a choice. DISC will have a very similar situation. No one really denies this because to do so would be a blatant lie.

    Closing Pedrick/Tremont with morning TaiChi or whatever is a brilliant idea in the subtext of this article BUT that will only divert more traffic to 113 and so on.

    The most mature and sustainable thing to do would be to keep Mace as is with some modifications to improve cycling safety and unnecessary complications for motor vehicles, keep the current number of lanes, add a protected cycleway to South Fork Preserve and to north of 80, have free shuttles to Amtrak, a new park & ride at the NE corner of Mace and Cowell – which has, by the way, no sidewalk and is seriously middle-fingering people with mobility issues: It’s a dirt path from the north side of Cowell to the 7-11 except for a short stretch of sidewalk from the corner to the bus stop. The closest ped crossing to the east is a very, very long block away. Anyway, also heavily subsidize Capitol Corridor to Sac or more. Pay for all of this with the 150 million etc that they want for the Lexus Lanes.

    p.s. Some of the bicycle lane widths in this project are below City Standards!

    1. Ron Oertel

      “Lexus Lanes”

      Clever.  At first, I though you might have coined that term, but it appears not:

      I wonder what lanes they’ll ultimately stick drivers like me in – using vehicles that measure their age in decades. Though I’m not driving all that much, anymore. (Never did, really.)

      I’m already sometimes “in the way” of “Tech Bro Teslas”. After all, they’ve got more-important places to be, while they’re out saving the world!

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