Tuesday, September 2, 2014

Big dreams for downtown entrance area

From page A1 | March 16, 2014 |

There is no timeline set. There are no cost estimates released. There was, however, one big dream let loose Saturday: Make the entrance to downtown safer, faster and more beautiful without expanding the Richards Boulevard tunnel.

A public-private partnership involving Davis Downtown, the Davis Chamber of Commerce, the city of Davis, Yolo County Visitors Bureau and a handful of engineering and other companies took more than three dozen onlookers on a tour of the Richards Boulevard bike tunnel area and talked about the partnership’s hopes.

One hope Saturday was to inspire the participants and get their opinions on pretty much everything: preliminary drawings of another bike tunnel on the east side of Richards Boulevard, beneath a sloping, arch-supported bike bridge that would connect the current bike path to the new one on the east side of Richards.

Along the way, a new traffic turn lane could be added to the southbound direction of Richards Boulevard before Olive Drive, and on the northbound side there would be an extension of the right turn lane toward the tunnel.

The idea is to improve circulation going in both directions for all modes of transportation. Bikes and pedestrians would have dedicated paths — even a bike roundabout on the corner of Olive Drive.

“If you’re going to do something here, you’d better do something for circulation,” said Roger Berry, a Yolo County artist and designer, who is working with the project.

Berry said the town is beautiful, “but it’s a secret garden until you get through that underpass.”

On the way to improving circulation, the project would seek to establish a more aesthetic entrance. A dirt parking lot on the west side of Richards Boulevard toward Olive Drive would have to be moved to make way for a path to the bike and pedestrian bridge, and planted with native trees where space allows.

Similarly, the east side of Richards Boulevard on the south side of the tunnel would be graded down to make room for the new bike path and the other part of the bike bridge.

Kemble Pope, executive director of the Davis Chamber of Commerce, kicked off the tour Saturday at the John Natsoulas Gallery by allaying some of the fears that might have immediately cropped up about the project.

First, the private entities had a memorandum of understanding with the city. Second, this was no massive undertaking that would be launched in one fell swoop. It would be completed in manageable phases, the first being sign-off from the community.

Then there was the issue of time.

“We’re not trying to tell you they’ll all get done, maybe they’ll be done 10 years from now (and) maybe they’ll never get done,” Pope said, also stressing that the city’s involvement did not mean it had spent taxpayer money on the project.

Anne Brunette, who recently retired from working on city development projects, told the participants not to give up on the idea because of its size.

“It’s a big project,” she said. “You’ll hear people say, ‘It’s a big project. It’s a really expensive. Just because of that let’s not do anything.’ ”

But, Brunette said, the proposal for a hotel and conference center at the University Inn/Caffé Italia site will have requirements to pony up cash for improvements at the Olive Drive and Richards Boulevard intersection.

— Reach Dave Ryan at dryan@davisenterprise.net or 530-747-8057. Follow him on Twitter at @davewritesnews





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