Northgate Boulevard Emerging Design Concepts

Update: Added a crash/collision map at the bottom. Though prevention of pedestrian and bicyclist killed and severe injury is always a top priority, this is not a high risk corridor as compared to many arterials in the city.

City of Sacramento staff (Leslie Mancebo) presented to the Sacramento Active Transportation Commission last Thursday on the Northgate Boulevard Emerging Design Concepts. The presentation slides are here. The city’s Northgate webpage has a lot of background material. A link to the virtual open house on May 11 is available.

I rode Northgate Blvd yesterday to refresh my memory about the street, as I’d not gone that way in a while. So, some comments:

The section of Northgate from Rio Tierra to I-80 is a standard suburban arterial, with low quality development and a completely uninteresting place to be. Changes to the roadway may make it safer, but won’t make it any more interesting or economically successful. The city should not focus on this area. It is unpleasant, and not particularly safe, but leave it be.

The section of Northgate from Rio Tierra to Garden Hwy has serious issues, but I see it as a place that could be transformed into an interesting, welcoming, and vibrant place. The number of small businesses, each with a driveway, is a challenge, but also an opportunity. At least half of the businesses are locally owned. This is not the home of big box and chain stores like much of the suburbs. It IS a place where people could walk if provided a safe and encouraging environment, and there are multiple destinations used by local residents.

I think that this entire segment should have buffered and wide sidewalks. The bike facilities could provide some buffer, but the sidewalk buffer is critical because it allows street trees. This section desperately needs street trees! Of course to be successful, the buffer/planting strip needs to be at least six feet, and the sidewalk at least six feet, but eight-ten foot buffer and eight foot sidewalk would be better. I think that the walking mode should take precedence over all other modes, even bicycling and transit, so whatever right-of-way the buffer and sidewalk needs, it should get. Don’t compromise this away.

I realize this project is at the gathering community input stage. However, diagrams will be used, and I’d like to see the diagrams include significant improvement to the pedestrian environment, wide sidewalks buffered from other modes, with trees in the buffer.

The presentation resulted in a number of questions from commission members about bicycle facilities. One of the ideas that got support is a two-way separated bikeway (or cycletrack) to provide a connection between the Ninos multiple use trail and the American River Parkway multiple use trail (the ‘special section’ in the presentation). There was less agreement about bicycle facilities north of there. One of the ideas is separated bikeways (protected bike lanes). Though of course separated bikeways are the best solution overall, I’m not sure they make sense for the east side of the street. Separated bikeways work best when there are few or no driveways, but there is a huge numbers of driveways here. The west side of the street has far fewer driveways.

There are some opportunities on the corridor for reducing driveways, and certainly some of the driveways can be narrowed to reduce entry and exit speeds. But short of a wholesale revision of the area, most driveways will remain, so the street design must accommodate this fact.

Transit on the part of the corridor between Arden Way and San Juan Road is provided by SacRT Route 13 Natomas/Arden, with a 45 minute frequency on weekdays. The route has a fairly low ridership, but it is a long route of which the Northgate section is a small part.


Crash/collision map of the Northgate Blvd corridor for pedestrians (walkers) and bicyclists. Data is from SWITRS for the years 2015-2019. (pdf)

Take the information about fault below with a huge grain of salt. It is well known that law enforcement officers assume walkers and bicyclists to be at fault, without any serious investigation, and often on the sole word of the driver involved.

Pedestrian (walker):

  • Northgate near Rosin Ct: killed, 60 yo male, unknown detail, no fault, no alcohol
  • Northgate near Ozark Cir: severe injury, 74 yo female, crossing, at fault, alcohol
  • Northgate at Wisconsin: severe injury, 36 yo female with two children, crossing, driver fault
  • Northgate at Peralta: severe injury, 48 yo, crossing Peralta, at fault (very unlikely)

Bicyclist:

  • Northgate near Winter Garden: severe injury, 49 yo male, left turn, at fault
  • Northgate at Bridgeford: killed, 47 yo male, crossing, at fault, alcohol or drug
  • Northgate at Harding: killed, 31 yo female, left turn, at fault
  • Northgate at Garden Hwy: severe injury, 40-44 yo male, broadside, at fault CVC 21453

The intersections of Northgate and San Juan Rd, West El Camino, and Garden Hwy/Jefferson Ave are particularly problematic because they are flared out to accommodate turning lanes, thereby lengthening crossing distances for walkers and creating a walker-hostile environment. Fixing these intersections would probably do more to improve the safety and feeling of this corridor than changes along the corridor.

Author: Dan Allison

Dan Allison is a Safe Routes to School Coordinator in the Sacramento area. Dan dances and backpacks, as much as possible.

4 thoughts on “Northgate Boulevard Emerging Design Concepts”

  1. Rio Terra to I-80
    Dan, I agree with you re: your assessment from Rio Terra to I-80. This is primarily office buildings, car repair shops, and fast food/drive-thru establishments (and a large chain grocery store). As a resident of this area I find I can ride my bicycle to these establishments and immediately get off Northgate and on to a smaller, suburban street (wider, bike lanes or sharrows, etc.). Agree: not worth additional assessment. Plus, for those looking to get from Rio Terra and cross the I-80 in to North Natomas (or vice versa), this is much more easily, safely, and pleasurably accomplished by taking the levee bike trail (which appears to be much closer to completion – I was able to ride the levee last week and almost make it from Del Paso to Arden).

    Rio Terra to Garden Highway
    Excellent suggestion on the buffered sideways with bikeways and trees. Northgate is a high-traffic area during rush hour, and in the summer it can be very hot to ride – trees and buffered sidewalks would be amazing!

    Ninos Parkway to America River Parkway
    Going from Ninos to ARP is actually not a huge issue for me (as a confident and regular cyclist) – the streets are pretty mellow/low traffic until you get to Northgate, and there’s a light at Northgate where much of the traffic stops and can “see” cyclists. I have no issues there. However, going the opposite direction, and coming from ARP and getting back to Ninos, can be challenging – you need to cross Northgate and you’re going downhill (fast) and it can be difficult to merge. I often ride on the sidewalk on the opposite end (guilty) or stop at the light and do a box turn. Not ideal. So a solution to address that would be great. A LOT of cyclists, as well as adults experiencing homelessness, use the West side of Northgate to travel both North and South to/from the American River – so it can be a little crowded at times with so many people going the “wrong” way on Northgate (salmoning).

    Also would just like to comment that, agree, tons of driveways. And, I don’t see these driveways changing – there are too many locally owned businesses or small businesses on this corridor that rely on these driveways and the Northgate traffic.

    The area would be greatly improved if it were more pleasant to walk and bike on Northgate. There are a plethora of excellent Mexican restaurants and meat counters, smaller grocery stores specializing in Mexican and Indian foods, services for Spanish-speaking populations (tax services, immigration services), clothing retailers, and other restaurants (donuts – delicious!, pizza, ice cream, pupusas) and a few large-retailers (Smart & Final, Harbor Freight). Because of the large proportion of smaller locally owned establishments, I can see biking/walking as really beneficial to the community.

    1. Thank you for your comments. I agree that the diversity of mostly locally-owned small businesses is the real strength of Northgate. Offer the neighborhood a safe and welcoming place to walk, and it will really boom.

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