R Street suggestions

R Street, the part to be improved
R Street, the part to be improved

The City of Sacramento and CADA held a community meeting on November 23 on the R Street Phase III Streetscape project, presenting design alternatives for the section of R Street between 13th and 16th streets. Phase I is the already completed portion between 10th and 13th, and Phase II is the upcoming portion between 16th and 18th. Three alternatives were presented for each of the three blocks, basically representing three different levels of traffic calming and devotion of right-of-way width to pedestrians rather than vehicles. Alternative three for each block includes curb extensions or bulb-outs at most corners. All the alternatives include wider sidewalks.

I am glad to see the city moving forward on these improvements, with the already completed Phase I making a huge difference to the usability and appearance of the street. Though the most economically vibrant portion of the street currently is this section from 13th to 16th, it will unfortunately be the last to be completed.

R Street, the part already improved
R Street, the part already improved

R Street has become a corridor for bicyclists. At the west end it connects to the R Street bicycle/pedestrian bridge over Interstate 5, one of the few routes into Old Town Sacramento and to the Tower Bridge. At the west end is R Street Market, of which Safeway is the biggest part. There are a number of new businesses along R Street, it has become one of the happening places of Sacramento, several projects are under development, and there is the potential for many more. It is a fairly slow street, comfortable for many people to ride, though of course the old tracks that are present on parts of the street are a remaining hazard to bicyclists. There are two SacRT light rail stations directly adjacent to the street (13th and 16th), and several more in close proximity.

I offered several suggestions for improving the design alternatives presented:

  1. Lower the speed limit on the street to 15 or 20 mph so that it can serve as a bicycle boulevard among its other purposes, and will be safer and more comfortable for pedestrians to cross.
  2. Narrow travel lanes to 10 feet rather than 11 feet, which further reduces speeds.
  3. Change the direction of the stop signs at 14th Street so that they apply to 14th Street rather than R Street. Remove additional stop signs from R Street so that it can serve as a low speed transportation corridor, in particular, the completely unnecessary stop sign at the T intersection of R Street and 12th Street. Stop signs do not actually reduce the speed of traffic, since motor vehicles accelerate to the same speed or greater in between stop signs.
  4. Curb extensions or bulb-outs, which are fairly expensive to install, are not as important so long as other traffic calming actions, as above, are taken, but they do make it more comfortable for pedestrians by shortening street crossing distances.

William Burg and Chris Morfas, local advocates whose opinions I very much respect, argued for these and other improvements. Another person suggested removal of the yellow center line. The introduction of the slight uncertainty of unmarked lanes slows traffic. A representative from Burgers and Brew, one of the popular businesses in this section, said that he was OK with some loss of parking so long as the overall function of the street was enhanced, but was concerned about the details of how the improved and widened sidewalks would interface with several of the businesses.

The city project engineer, Zuhair Amawi, seemed very resistant to all suggestions from the audience. He said that changing the character of traffic on and around the street was something the city would not consider, that this project was about improving the appearance of the street. He also demonstrated a remarkable lack of understanding of traffic calming and complete streets principles. The CADA representative, Todd Leon, was much more open to suggestions. CADA is funding the largest portion of this project, but it is being led by the city.

Neither the presentation slides nor the design diagrams have been posted online, so I can’t refer you to that information, but if you are interested in R Street, I’d suggest contacting Todd Leon or Zuhair Amawi.

I have a few photos of Sacramento R Street, including sections to the east which are also being redeveloped.

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