By David M. Greenwald
Davis, CA – Several years have passed with a pandemic in between since the issue of the Mace Blvd. redesign first came up and community members expressed concerns about the impacts of the previous redesign on traffic—particularly peak hour traffic on Northbound Mace Blvd. on Thursdays and Fridays.
The Davis City Council this week has two options, to either approve a resolution approving redesign plans of Mace from Cowell to Montgomery Ave. for bidding, or an alternative that would have Fehr and Peers complete the design “for the bidding that allows for a two-way cycle track on the west side from San Marino to Cowell.”
This option would delay overall bidding by six weeks.
Last year at the BTSSC meeting, “There were concerns raised about the addition of vehicle travel lanes and how this may affect both traffic congestion, by increasing the available space to “store” cars and therefore encourage more cut through traffic from I-80, and reduce safety for bicyclist.”
Four goals were listed at that time: (1) Reduce the delay for residents along the corridor. (2) Accommodate people of all ages and abilities riding bicycles. (3) Discourage rerouting of freeway traffic with navigation applications. (4) Accommodate emergency response and farm vehicles.
The commission came back in September and recommended that the city do pre- and post-project traffic counts. The commission also created “a subcommittee to write a letter to express concerns about the cycle track to City Council.”
These concerns have been expressed since the start. The traffic problem, engineers found, was exacerbated but not caused by the road redesign. Instead, congestion along I-80 was causing traffic to divert through Tremont Road in Solano County and cut back to the freeway on Mace causing large scale congestion.
As the traffic engineer from Fehr & Peers noted back in 2019, “What we’re seeing, it’s about a 10-minute difference. By getting off at Dixon and instead of traveling east on 80, the vehicles are saving about 10 minutes of time.”
Fixing Mace, the engineer warned, could, instead of freeing up local traffic, encourage more cut-throughs.
“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.”
Meanwhile the state is taking steps to widen I-80, a move that some critics believe will just grow traffic.
Nevertheless, the state received about $85.9 million in federal funding “to reduce congestion on Interstate 80 and U.S. Highway 50 by creating new managed lanes along 17 miles of highway.”
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.”
Nevertheless, the city has committed to the redesign.
The project is expected to be phased in.
Phase 1a would include two full-width southbound traffic lanes between Cowell Blvd. and N. El Macero Dr. This would include reducing the width of the current median.
It would allow modifications to the striping between San Marino and North El Macero Drive “to accommodate two northbound travel lanes along the full length of the roadway while maintaining the bike buffers.”
There would be modifications to the intersection of Cowell and Mace to accommodate truck-turning radii as well as modifications to the signal timing and operations.
It would also create two full-width northbound lanes between North El Macero Drive and Cowell.
Once this is completed, Phase 1 would be a “pilot project” which would meter traffic at Tremont and Mace and then at Montgomery and Mace 30 days later.
The city would pay for these costs and “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.”
During Phase 2, there would be added “two northbound travel lanes from Redbud Dr. to San Marino Ave. after determination of successful traffic light pilot and City/County agreement for permanent metering light.”
Further, there would be consideration of an additional right turn lane northbound at Cowell Blvd.
If the council selects option B, “then a two-way cycle track will be added as a bid alternative for Phase 1a.”