On Oct.7 City Council approved a plan for the East Covell Corridor. The plan will help to improve traffic flow, increase safety for cyclists and pedestrians and adapt for the increase in population from The Cannery, the housing and business development currently under construction off of East Covell.
Development of the East Covell Corridor Plan (ECCP) began in 2012, when The Cannery applications were submitted. In the final development agreement, The Cannery agreed to the funding of infrastructure accommodations that would have to be made for the influx of people moving into the area.
“The Cannery development was the impetus for taking a look at the East Covell Corridor. We try to take into account what the trip generation is going to be like and how we can develop the infrastructure to accommodate all modes of transportation, but giving special attention to the vulnerable user, which [are] bicyclists and pedestrians,” said David Kemp, active transportation coordinator for the City of Davis.
Before the plan was conceived, the City of Davis hired two separate companies to assess East Covell from F Street to Birch Lane — The Dutch Cycling Embassy and Mobycon, a consulting group from the Netherlands that specializes in active transportation and “place making.”
After both companies gave their input, the current plan was designed, presented to and approved by City Council on Oct. 7.
The City Council’s staff report, dated Oct. 7, differentiates the changes to be made by placing them into three categories for the improvement — immediate, near-term and long-term. The immediate improvements will take place over the next 12 months, the near-term in one to three years and the long-term in three years or more.
The immediate improvement category consists of installing Dutch junctions at both the L street and J street intersections.
A Dutch junction is similar to a regular intersection, but is adapted to improve safety for cyclists and pedestrians. Instead of cyclists having to come over from the bike lane to a lane situated between forward-moving traffic and a protected right turn, as in a traditional intersection, the cyclists remain next to the curb. Small cement barriers will be situated on every corner protecting the turning cyclist from a simultaneously turning car. Additionally, this will keep cyclists out of the way of pedestrians waiting to cross, because cyclists will have their own crossing paths.
“It has a few bells and whistles that make it a little safer for cyclists and pedestrians,” Kemp said.
For the near-term projects, the plan outlines a two-way cycle track along the south side of East Covell, a raised crossing at the entrance for the Oak Tree Shopping Center. As well as installation of buffered bike paths and improvements to the shared-use path on Birch Lane.
The funding for all of these improvements are coming primarily from The Cannery, as well as community enhancement and road improvement fees and grants the city will potentially apply for.
According to Bonnie Chiu, the forward planning director for The New Home Company and developer of The Cannery, although some of the ECCP is being funded by The Cannery, “The improvements and the prioritization of improvements within the ECCP will ultimately be the Davis City Council’s decision.”
The New Home Company plans to work with the City of Davis on whatever improvements they choose to implement.
One such choice, categorized as near-term, is the H Street Tunnel crossing. The reason that this improvement pending is because in order to make a safer crossing for cyclist using the H Street tunnel, the City of Davis would have to acquire some property from the Cranbrook Apartments and the Pinecrest Apartments.
Chiu said that The New Home Company would prefer the City of Davis decide to make the crossing under Covell and connect to the existing bike path on the south side of Covell because it takes fewer accommodations and it would be done sooner.
“We want new residents at the Cannery to have this amenity in place or under construction early on so they can opt to use the bike path as part of their daily travel if they choose,” Chiu said.
Mayor Dan Wolk said that the City Council would like to make the H Street tunnel crossing if at all possible.
“Physically, it is a little tricky to get down to that H Street crossing, but council wants to keep pursuing it. But if that doesn’t work the council will have to decide if they want to loop the path around eastward and back to the overpass on the south side — but I think it is safe to say that the council still wants to use the H Street tunnel,” Wolk said.
He added that he encourages students to get involved and give their input on the ECCP as it is their community that will be impacted by this plan.
“Our plan is a huge step in addressing these challenges but we still have a ways to go,” Wolk said.