There is an anomaly on Fifth Street: One of the most traveled roads in Davis suddenly becomes one of the most bike-unfriendly between A and L Streets.
The Davis City Council has decided to move ahead to fix hazardous conditions on the busy road between A and L Streets, by approving the initial phases of the Fifth Street Corridor Project.
Some of the proposed additions to the current corridor include 7 to 8 foot bicycle lanes, which will accommodate bus turnouts for the four Unitrans and Yolobus bus stops in the corridor, pedestrian crossing lights at the intersections of D and J Streets, traffic signals at F and G Streets which give protected left turns in all directions and access improvements at the Davis Fire Department near E Street.
Katherine Hess, community development administrator for the city of Davis, said the staff report approves the project and the next step is moving forward with construction, even though the start date for construction is undetermined.
“City Council unanimously authorized the project after reviewing the conceptual designs. Developing this high traffic section of Fifth Street is important because it is not representative of Davis and it will greatly improve the safety and transportation for drivers, bicyclists and pedestrians,” Hess said.
Adjustments will most likely be made before the city proceeds with construction, since the impacts may be large, such as road closures, she said.
“After the project, the review staff is going to work with residents, businesses and cycling advocates to evaluate if the new changes to the corridor are a success or not,” Hess said.
Sacramento Area Council of Governments (SACOG) approved the Davis’ application for a Community Design Grant and is providing $836,000 in a Community Design Grant. SACOG is a transportation agency designated by the Federal Government to provide smart growth towards urban planning to make community’s more viable through offering improved transportation choices, said Greg Chew, a senior planner with SACOG.
“This program allows cities that are in our jurisdiction, like Davis, to apply for money to develop smart growth with urban planning and enhancing the transportation grid in a community,” Chew said.
SACOG is in collaboration with four different counties – Yolo, Sacramento, Sutter and Yuba – and is currently funding 25 projects of smart growth development.
“Applications of all flavors, forms and colors are proposed, but a selection committee reviews all projects to see which ones best fit the objective of SACOG’s program,” Chew said. “The support by the [Davis] community and city council is evidence that shows there is a real commitment to progress with the preliminary project,” Chew said.
According to the city’s staff report, the entire Fifth Street Corridor Project is estimated to cost $1.77 million, so more than half of the funding will be generated from additional sources. Although there are a few minor local funds available, like Roadway Impact Fees and Redevelopment Agency Funds, Hess said how the city plans to deal with the financial aspects is another factor. Construction dates are also unclear.
The grant money is not available until 2013, so Hess said the city has two options in financially approaching the Fifth Street Corridor Project. The city can either wait for SACOG’s grant money or advance enough funds from other resources in order to expedite construction.
Greg Kuperberg, professor of mathematics at UCD and Davis resident, believes bicycling on Fifth Street can be improved, but is skeptical of large projects.
“[The city should] do more with a laundry list of smaller and less controversial projects,” Kuperberg said. “I think that it’s very important to prioritize projects objectively and get the small and medium-sized things right. There are a lot of neglected and poorly designed features around town,” Kuperberg said.
Kuperberg said if safety is the real concern and motivating factor in improving the Fifth Street corridor, the city should also address road conditions alongside Olive Drive, considering there have been four fatalities in this area in recent years.
MICHAEL STEPANOV can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.