Is Council Finally Ready to Authorize Mace Redesign?

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By David M. Greenwald
Executive Editor

Davis, CA – The process began back in 2019 and was slowed and delayed by COVID, but next week, the council will be asked to approve the redesign concepts of Mace Blvd from Cowell to Montgomery and give direction to move forward with the new design.

The council would be asked to authorize another $500,000.  “If approved, this amendment would bring the total amount of the redesign efforts to a potential of $854,280,” staff writes.  “The current adjusted budget for fiscal year 21/22 includes funding in the amount of $1,131,100, of which $934,000 is unencumbered and available, which is sufficient to support the recommendation.”

However, “Additional funding to support construction efforts will be determined following Council action tonight and will be requested when we have an engineering cost estimate for the improvements.”

In 2016, the City completed the Mace Blvd Improvements project “with the intent to create a safer traveling environment for motor vehicles, bicyclists, and pedestrians.”  There were concerns at that time, that existing conditions on Mace Blvd, and at the intersection of Mace Blvd/Cowell Blvd, created significant barriers to increased walking and bicycling.”

However, the road redesign which led to a reduction of vehicle travel lanes combined with increased cut-through traffic due to directional apps and freeway congestion led to traffic backups on Mace during peak hours, especially on Thursdays and Fridays.

The council agreed in April 2019, “to revisit the corridor with a new consultant and come up with a revised design that was better than the “before project” condition and an improvement on the current design.”

In January, another community meeting was held where design concepts were laid out.

They are looking to:

  • Reduce the delay for residents along the corridor
  • Accommodate people riding bicycles of all ages and abilities
  • Discourage rerouting of freeway traffic with navigation applications
  • Accommodate emergency response and farm vehicles

To do that they will add two north and southbound traffic lanes between Cowell and North El Macero Drive.  They will have a one-way, protected bike lane and will modify the median for the benefit of both public safety and farm vehicles.

This includes reducing the width of the median and adding some additional landscaping.

They will also make modifications to the striping between San Marino and North El Macero “to accommodate two northbound travel lanes along the full length of the roadway while maintaining the bike buffers.”

They will also make “modifications to the protected intersection at Cowell/Mace, including accommodation for truck-turning radii and modifications to the signal timing and operations.”

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 them, “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.”

Finally, they will add two northbound lanes from Redbud to San Marino, after the determination of a successful traffic light pilot.

The cost for all of this could top $4.5 million.

How much of the traffic concerns this redesign will actually solve remains to be seen.

Mike Webb pointed out in January, “Traffic congestion is a much bigger picture transportation system issue, far broader than Mace. Ultimately it requires a fix to I-80.”

During the summer, it was 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.

That will allow for freeway expansion and the addition of an HOV (high occupancy vehicle) lane that policeymakers hope will alleviate some of the freeway congestion.

Webb said, “Thankfully the recent INFRA grant award will allow Caltrans to address this.”

He added, “We greatly appreciate the community’s patience as we have worked through these design updates. We appreciate the feedback from stakeholders and will be reviewing that for possible further adjustments before we bring our recommendations to the BTSSC [Bicycling, Transportation and Street Safety Commission] and then City Council. We look forward to continuing forward progress.”

“I think the proposed suite of adjustments will be positive overall,” Vice Mayor Frerichs said.  “As I mentioned at the workshop the other night, context also matters—it is important to keep in mind that the peak hour impacts on Mace is one symptom of the larger issues with I-80, which is why I’ve also been focused/working on regional improvements to the entire 80 corridor through Davis and Yolo County.”

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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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9 thoughts on “Is Council Finally Ready to Authorize Mace Redesign?”

  1. Alan Pryor

    Re: The proposed additions of HOV lanes on I-80

    That will allow for freeway expansion and the addition of an HOV (high occupancy vehicle) lane that policeymakers hope will alleviate some of the freeway congestion

    The reality is that freeway expansions do NOT result in less congestion as been more than adequately demonstrated by numerous studies done at the UC Davis National Institute of Sustainable Transportation (NIST) – see  Increasing Highway Capacity Unlikely to Relieve Traffic Congestionand”DISC Traffic Problems and Associated Vehicular Emissions Will not Be Solved by the Proposed I-80 HOV Lane Expansion“.

    The problem is that by adding more capacity by the addition of more lanes, you simply induce additional traffic such that within 5-10 years of completion of an expansion project, the problem is just as bad as before. All you need to do to qualitatively verify this for yourself is to look at the number of 10 – 12 lane freeways criss-crossing the LA area and see that they are hopelessly clogged every evening and morning.

    Using The Induced Traffic Calculator developed at UCD (and discussed in the above referenced Vanguard article), it is quantitatively calculated that the addition of two HOV lanes (one on each side of I-80) from the Hwy 113 – I-80 interchangefor 17 miles east and over the Causeway will result in additional induced traffic totaling 218 million VMT (vehicle miles traveled) annually.

  2. Richard_McCann

    The nature of the I-80 congestion is different than most situations, so I’m not sure the calculator applies here. That congestion isn’t tied much to commuting nor to local activity travel. As everyone knows, it’s caused by Bay Area residents traveling to Tahoe and the Sierras. Congestion is fairly minimal outside of Thursday and Friday afternoons, and nonexistent on Mace. That traffic has increased as the affluence of the Bay Area has risen, and there isn’t a good alternative solution for getting those travelers to the mountains and then providing them with means of transportation once they are there.

    I’m not sure what the alternative solution should be. The only one I can think of is creating toll lanes that are in force Thursday and Fridays, perhaps with high entrance fees at Mace and the Yolo Causeway.

    1. Ron Oertel

      The nature of the I-80 congestion is different than most situations, so I’m not sure the calculator applies here. That congestion isn’t tied much to commuting nor to local activity travel. As everyone knows,

      Are you kidding? You’re claiming that most traffic on I-80 is due to skiers heading to the mountains?

      It’s a major corridor, between large population centers. It’s also a primary line for commercial traffic / big rigs.

      The only one I can think of is creating toll lanes that are in force Thursday and Fridays, perhaps with high entrance fees at Mace and the Yolo Causeway.

      Yeah, I’m sure that will happen.

       

    2. Ron Oertel

      The only one I can think of is creating toll lanes that are in force Thursday and Fridays, perhaps with high entrance fees at Mace and the Yolo Causeway.

      And the travelers who would least-likely be “influenced” by that are the skiers/weekend travelers to the mountains.

      It pales in comparison to all of the other costs that they are willing (and able) to pay for that trip.

      I know for a fact that some of them resent the valley being “in the way” of that trip in the first place. With I-80 increasingly-congested as a result of development in the region (and even in places like Reno and Folsom).

    3. Alan Miller

      Congestion is fairly minimal outside of Thursday and Friday afternoons

      You have got to be joking.

      I checked the calendar. April 1st is still a few weeks from now.

    4. Alan Pryor

      The nature of the I-80 congestion is different than most situations, so I’m not sure the calculator applies here. That congestion isn’t tied much to commuting nor to local activity travel. As everyone knows, it’s caused by Bay Area residents traveling to Tahoe and the Sierras.

      I spoke with the folks at UCD before I wrote the article and they claim the Induced Traffic Calculator  is applicable to any freeway in California regardless of the types of traffic it carries. As an example of why that may apply to the I-80 expansion (even if due to weekend vacationers) -> If more lanes are opened up on I-80, would that not induce more Bar Area residents to flee to Tahoe if they were not forced to take an extra hour  two get to the hills.?

      But I am not even sure all of the additional traffic is due to Tahoe traffic but rather might instead be due to the nature of commuter traffic. Look at all of the Bay Area traffic patterns and they are always worse every which way on Thursday and Friday eves. This increased Thursday-Friday rush hour traffic  might instead just be due to people leaving early on those days to get home earlier or other people having to stay later to finish up some assigned work project by the weekend. In either case it might compress the commutte time more to the identified rush hours.  If so, a lot of the increased traffic might, in fact be primarily attributed to increased commuter demand.

      And my own observations show that big rig traffic also seems to be substantially increased on Fridays which could be attributed to loads trying to get out on Thursday or Friday eves so they can travel over the weekend and potentially arrive at distant locations for Monday or Tuesday am deliveries. I knew a  lot of long haul drivers and they were always on the road from Friday through Monday for just that reason.

      The only one I can think of is creating toll lanes that are in force Thursday and Fridays

      I am funadamentally oppossed to the use of “Lexus Lanes” (as they are derisively referred to by the less wealthy schmucks stuck in the slower lane). Since when are our freeways (with the emphasis on “free”) to be designed so the more wealthy can get to their chateaus in Tahoe more quickly. That is reprehensible IMO.

  3. Alan Miller

    More lanes and keep the concrete and the cemented-in rocks?  That sounds like the fix is going to have all the worst parts of the Mace Mess plus a return to four lanes which was the worst part of the original design.  I wonder what we will call this?  “The Mace Mass Mess II – The Sequel” ?

    Also, how will this metering help?  Unless it ends up backing up people more than the freeway does, which I understand can be a savings up to 10 minutes, it isn’t going to work as the app will still send people that way.  And is it such a great idea to back up country roads with meters?  Maybe what we need is a state law where jurisdictions can tell Waze and Google not to put people on certain routes.   There is a route in Colorado where Waze was routing people onto a dirt mountain road with sheer cliff drops to get around I-70 Vail Pass traffic.  They are trying to get the apps to stop routing people that way before someone goes off a cliff with a car load of children.

    “Traffic congestion is a much bigger picture transportation system issue, far broader than Mace. Ultimately it requires a fix to I-80” . . .   improve and expand 17 miles of the Interstate 80 and U.S. Highway 50 corridors in Yolo and Sacramento Counties . . .  policeymakers hope will alleviate some of the freeway congestion.

    This is all lunacy.  While all this is going on, the area is exploding with new people, largely from the Bay Area who will then travel to the Bay Area from Sacramento.  Then we are building DISC, Railyards and Lord people have you seen the new Folsom south of Hwy. 50 ?  The sheer mass of this (all public transit impossible large houses in the hills) is difficult for the human mind to fathom.  I-80 cannot and will not ever keep up.

    The only solution is MASSIVE capitol infrastructure improvements in the Capitol Corridor, and convenient frequent connections to all large population areas from the rail spine.   Without this, we are doomed to suffer in every-increasing traffic strangulation.  ‘Policymakers hope this will relieve traffic congestion’ my arse.

  4. Matt Williams

    To do that they will add two north and southbound traffic lanes between Cowell and North El Macero Drive.  They will have a one-way, protected bike lane and will modify the median for the benefit of both public safety and farm vehicles.

    They will only add one lane each way, bringing the total of the lanes to two northbound and two southbound.  Unfortunately WAZE vehicles trying to “jump the queue” will quickly fill up the addition northbound lane.

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