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Davis, California

Sunday, September 19, 2021

New downtown Davis route opens to traffic

Beginning Dec. 18, 2012, vehicles were the least of bicyclists’ and pedestrians’ worries as they traveled down what was once called Old Davis Road. Running along the Arboretum waterway and now officially known as Arboretum Drive, the road was previously open to cars as well. Instead, traffic can now travel along the “new” Old Davis Road, a more direct path between UC Davis’ south campus and downtown Davis.

The project, constructed by Western Engineering Contractors,  has been underway since late August 2012. The plan was to create a new south loop that would allow vehicles to travel on a new road and convert the old road to be accessible only to bikes and pedestrians.

“Saying [Old Davis Road] is unsafe is an understatement — with all the bicycles and pedestrians trying to use that corridor, that very narrow road,” said Kurt Wengler, senior project manager of UC Davis’ Design and Construction Management. “Safety was a very big concern.”

According to UC Davis’ sustainability website, Old Davis Road was extended from the east end of Hyatt Place to the southern end of A Street. The extension added about 1,100 feet of road, connecting the south side of Parking Lot 5 and providing a new route.

The new road is a four-way intersection that allows vehicles to travel easily to Wyatt Pavilion and Nelson Hall. It also runs past the Mondavi Center and the south-entry parking garage.

“Back when I was a private consultant in the early ’90s, I was doing layout for this road [Old Davis Road],” Wengler said. “[We’ve been] planning for a very, very long time.”

Wengler said the road is rather similar to the alignment he had worked on in the early ’90s.

“We’re going to be installing an access-control gate at the Mrak Hall end of Arboretum Drive,” Wengler said. “Only authorized vehicles can be at the end of that road.”

The overall project costs $2.9 million. However, Wengler said the entire project won’t be completed until sometime in March.

“The goal is to be completed in March, but the project has some lingering elements,” he said. “We haven’t received hardware yet for access-control gates and we’re finishing up landscaping along the corridor.”

According to Wengler, the campus is funding the cost of the construction, but it’s paid for by the leasing revenue from the expansion of Hyatt Place.

“It’s not really costing the campus anything; we’re really just being the bank in this case,” Wengler said.

So far, the response to the new road has been positive. Wengler said the new route to downtown from south campus is more streamlined.

“It’s a pretty nice feel to it, a meandering path of travel,” he said. “Instead of having to make 90-degree turns, you’re on a smooth path.”

Regarding the amount of traffic, Wengler said he expects to see more of it as more people discover the new route.

“Honestly, I think we’re doing nothing but improving access to downtown for the businesses that are there,” Wengler said.

Stewart Savage, director of the Davis Downtown Business Association, said in an email that he believes the new vehicle route will allow for more visitors to travel between the campus and downtown.

“The improved bicycle routes and pedestrian walkways are a great addition and further promote the active lifestyle we all enjoy,” Savage said. “The road improvements combined with the planned upgrades to the Arboretum entry will be a nice addition to our community.”

The project includes plans to build a new stairway down into the Arboretum at the A Street bridge, a new Arboretum entry plaza and a wheelchair-accessible path.

Additionally, the lighting in the Arboretum will be replaced with LED lighting.

“It’ll be a little bit brighter and safer at night for students,” Wengler said. “It’s about time that we built this.”

CLAIRE TAN can be reached at city@theaggie.org.

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