Local News

Road diet quietly works to a crescendo

By From page A1 | March 09, 2014

By late spring, motorists on Fifth Street between A and L streets will see two lanes of through traffic going 25 miles per hour, instead of four lanes at 30 mph.

It’s known as a “road diet,” but the project is officially called “Fifth Street Corridor Road Improvements,” somewhat obscuring the long history this project has had before construction started last October.

It’s been more than 10 years in the making, guided largely by public input and a succession of city councils. City staff originally opposed the project, Davis traffic engineer Roxanne Namazi said, because early traffic studies showed that congestion would increase.

The project first came to the council in 2003. It went away, then came back in 2005. It went away, then came back in 2008, ending up as an approved project in 2009. Then by 2011 it had a public outreach consultant attached to it. Design changes were made and the final project started with signal and sidewalk work late last year.

Bicycle advocates pressed the city for the project, seeking a more equitable path for bicycles on this stretch of well-used roadway. Despite the initial thoughts of congestion, the project contains bona fide improvements for both drivers and bicyclists.

In total, the road changes are estimated to cost $1.9 million. Part of the cost is handled by an $836,000 grant from the Sacramento Area Council of Governments. Roughly $800,000 will come from Davis road funds, $200,000 from a highway safety grant and $50,000 from Community Development Block Grant funds.

The timetable is much less certain. Hailed last year as a project that would have been completed by now, hang-ups with the arrival of new signal equipment, coordination with Pacific Gas & Electric Co. and finding just the right time to grind out the old lines and install the new markings make Namazi certain only of one thing: giving out a date of completion is foolhardy.

“There’s a lot of coordination that needs to happen to make it a smooth transition,” she said.

Here’s a bird’s-eye view of the project:

* A Street to B Street: At the A Street intersection, there will be new, wide-painted crosswalk markings, something that will go in at every signaled intersection. There will be a bike signal and in the northbound direction a green-painted bike box — where bicycles wait ahead of traffic for the green light.

Where University Avenue intersects with Russell Boulevard there will be a user-activated flashing crosswalk to provide a safer path for bicycles and pedestrians. All along this piece of roadway and all along Fifth Street to L Street, there is a bike lane with a painted stripe a foot wide — twice the standard width — that will serve to separate cars and bicycles.

* B Street to D Street: There will be bike boxes for northbound and southbound lanes, as well as wide-painted striped crosswalks. At the C Street intersection there will be a median safe zone for pedestrians along with a user-activated flashing crosswalk.

There are so-called turn pockets where drivers coming from the west can head north and drivers coming from the east can turn south. There are the same turn pockets for the D Street intersection, with wide striped crosswalks.

* D Street to F Street: At the fire station near the intersection with E Street there will be a signal the firefighters can use when they go out on calls. There will be turn pockets at the E Street intersection as well, along with F Street, where turning motorists in all directions for the first time will have protected turns at the signal.

* F Street to railroad tracks: F Street also will have bike boxes for northbound and southbound bicycle traffic. At G Street, all turning motorists will have a protected signaled turn, just like F Street. As Fifth Street approaches the railroad tracks, turn pockets become a lane used for drivers turning north and south. Farther up Fifth, raised medians made of concrete will try to block all attempts to wiggle around lowered railroad crossing arms.

* Railroad tracks to L Street: At the I Street intersection there will be wide-striped crosswalks. At the J Street intersection, a flashing crosswalk goes north to south, in addition to wide-striped crosswalks. Farther down Fifth, there are more wide-striped crosswalks at L Street.

At a glance

* Bike box: A green-painted box at an intersection giving bicycles a head start on vehicle traffic

* Shark’s teeth: Painted white triangles indicating a stopping point before flashing crosswalks

User-activated flashing crosswalk: Pedestrians and bicyclists push a button and activate flashers along the crosswalk that have been proved to get the attention of drivers

Raised Island: Concrete medians designed to deter motorists from getting around railroad crossing arms

Turn pocket: A lane that seems carved out from the median to allow turning drivers to separate themselves from east-west or north-south traffic

Dual turn lane: A lane that drivers can use to turn in conflicting directions; often used in business districts where parking lots are located on either side of the street

Dave Ryan

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