5th Street mess at Sac Valley Station

With this post, I’ve added a new category to my blog: re-gridding Sacramento. I’ll have more to say about that category, and many more posts, in the near future.

Sac Valley Station exit, forced right
Sac Valley Station exit, forced right
5th St to I St, forced right turn
5th St to I St, forced right turn

Let’s say one was driving and wanted to leave the Sacramento Valley Station (Amtrak and Capitol Corridor) to head southbound or eastbound. Tough luck. The exit at the east end of the parking lot forces you to turn right, to the south, onto 5th Street. I often see people turning across the double yellow line to go northbound on 5th Street, and to be honest, I don’t blame them, because this is the logical though illegal way to go south or east.

signs on I St westbound at 4th St
signs on I St westbound at 4th St

But let’s say that you stick with the law and painted lines, and go right onto 5th and then right onto I Street, which you are forced to do. On I Street, you have one short block to get positioned for your destination. You’ll see the signs on I St westbound at 4th Street, shown at right, but remember that you can’t see the signs until after you’ve already turned, and the traffic on your side of the street, the north side, is already moving at over 45 mph, accelerating onto the freeway or I Street viaduct. If you happen to be a bicyclist, don’t even bother.

Your chances of ending up on Interstate 5 northbound are about 50%, your chances of ending up on the I Street bridge to West Sacramento are about 40%, your chances of ending up on I Street into Old Sacramento are about 5%, and finally, your chances of ending up on 3rd Street southbound, which was your original direction of travel, are about 5%.

Why can’t a person turn left, northbound, onto 5th Street? I’m guessing that the city thought there’d be too much conflict between traffic turning left into the station with traffic turning left out of the station. There is a lot of traffic at certain times of day. Part of the reason for the left-in, left-out pattern is that I Street is one-way westbound and H Street is one-way eastbound. The current paint scheme showed up with the  repaving that occurred last year.

Why can’t a person turn right and continue south on 5th Street? The one block portion of 5th Street between J Street and I Street is one-way northbound. Why? I have no idea. It may be to flush traffic out of downtown as quickly as possible at during the afternoon rush time, with four lanes allowing almost unrestricted and high speed travel, screaming around the corner onto I Street and then onto the freeway. At least that is what most people are doing. But the four lane capacity is unnecessary, and the use of this one block road block handicaps traffic circulation not only out of Sacramento Valley Station, but for a several block radius.

If you stand on a corner and watch the cars, not infrequently you’ll see the same car going by again and again, trying to get into position for the desired destination. This must be so frustrating to tourists, but I see people that I’m guessing are locals that just can make the maneuvers quickly enough. It is precisely this circling around the block that sends carbon emissions sky high.

5th-StWhat is the solution? Change the one block one-way section of the 5th Street to two-way. It is two-way to the north and two-way to the south. It may be that a new signal would be needed for southbound traffic at J Street, and signals are expensive, but to not make this change wastes the money and resources of everyone. The other signals could be easily reconfigured to work for the new scheme.

The one-way streets throughout downtown and midtown create many of the same ridiculous circulation patterns, going around and around the block in an attempt to get to a destination, but this location is the worst of all, so far as I’m concerned. I’ve also written about the mess of I Street approaching this area, for people and particularly bicyclists who are westbound but not going not the freeway.

One thought on “5th Street mess at Sac Valley Station

  1. Chris Morfas pointed out that a turn across a double yellow line is not prohibited. CVC 21460 Double Lines covers the situation. It says, in part, “(d) The markings as specified in subdivision (a), (b), or (c) do not prohibit a driver from crossing the marking if (1) turning to the left at an intersection or into or out of a driveway or private road…” I was fooled by the prominence of the double yellow and the right turn arrows painted on the ground, which clearly send a message that a left is not permitted. But it is. While I was standing there taking photos and looking at traffic, several people came up to me and asked why they couldn’t turn left there, so the message is received by drivers that is it not permitted, even though the law permits it. http://www.dmv.ca.gov/pubs/vctop/d11/vc21460.htm


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