and bike lane blockages

Here is one example (of many) of a bike lane blocked by construction, on J Street between 10th Street and 11th Street in Sacramento. There is a major construction project on the south side in the eastern half of the block for a new apartment building. I’ve written about this issue before: J Street needs construction bypass. As construction progresses, the barriers around the site have moved closer to and further from J Street. The last time I was there, only the parking lane (and of course sidewalk) was blocked, but today, the bike lane is blocked again.

J Street bike lane pinches out at construction barrier

There are no signs along J Street warning of the closure ahead, and there is no ‘share the road’ sign. The commonly used, but not official MUTCD or CA-MUTCD, ‘bicycle share the road’ sign is below. This is, at minimum, the sign that should be installed here.

The solution is to either get the construction company to pull the barrier back from the street, returning the bike lane to function, or for a bike lane to replace the right hand travel lane. Since the sidewalk is also blocked, the accommodation can also serve walkers. As you can see from the photo, the left hand general purpose lane is already blocked for a utility work project. That would result in one lane for an unknown period of time, though the utility project seems to be going fairly quickly and might be done within a couple of weeks or less. The city should do a better job of scheduling construction projects so that they aren’t going on both sides of a busy street at the same time!

excess car capacity!

Kevin Dumler posted this to Twitter, and it caused me to pay more attention to all the utility and construction projects going on in the central city that have reduced general purpose travel lanes (car lanes). What follows are some photos of other locations.

10th St past P St, lane reduction two to one
I St past 10th St, lane reduction three to two
J St past 10th St, lane reduction three to two, also parking and bike lane closure
N St past 10th St, lane reduction from three to one (same location as Kevin tweeted)
L St past 12th St, lane reduction from three to one

It is only in this last example, on J Street between 12th and 10th, where there was some congestion. However, no vehicles were being stuck at signals, nor failing to make it through the signal at 11th Street, so this is very minor congestion.

The point, well made by Kevin, is that we have excess capacity for motor vehicles on many of our roadways, particularly three lane roadways, that could better be used for other things, like bike facilities, wider sidewalks, planter strips or wider planter strips. Or even narrowing the street for housing!

bikeway blockages

There are active utility projects on 9th Street and 10th Street that have closed parts of the separated bikeways on those streets. Upon noticing this, I thought, no big deal, a few days of work and things will be back. But the closures have been continuing for three weeks now, with no end in sight. It is interesting that the utility work on J Street is moving fairly quickly, but on 9th and 10th, not so much. I am not sure what utilities are being worked on, and whether these are city-led projects with contractors working on city-owned utilities, or whether they are private utilities such as PG&E or communications.

When there is an extended closure of a separated bikeway, more than two days, an accommodation for bicyclists should be provided. I am aware that some bicyclists are willing to ride in the traffic lanes, but the entire point of a separated bikeway is that it needs to work for all bicyclists, including people who are not comfortable riding in traffic. To allow construction to close a bikeway, without any alternative, is a failure on the part of the city. The city is again expressing its favoritism for motor vehicle drivers over bicyclists.

10th Street

10th St at K St bikeway closure
10th St bikeway construction plate

For 10th Street, general purpose lanes should be reduced from two to one, making the other lane a temporary bikeway. Or, remove parking from the left (west) side of the street so as to allow two general purpose lanes and one temporary bikeway.

9th Street, H Street to J Street

9th St at H St bikeway/bike lane closure
9th St at I St bikeway/bike lane

The bike facility on 9th St is not technically a bikeway until it crosses J St, but since it is intended to provide a similar safe route of travel, I’m including it here. Utility work has closed off the bike lane between H St and J St. No alternative has been provided. The solution is to remove one general purpose travel lane and create a bikeway, or remove parking on the right (west) side of the street in order to maintain two general purpose lanes and one bikeway.

9th Street, K Street to L Street

9th St at K St, no signing for bikeway closure
9th St construction materials stored in the bikeway (just south of previous photo)

9th St at Kayak Alley, walkway/bikeway gone

The reconstruction of Capitol Park Hotel, on the east side of 9th Street between Kayak Alley and L Street, has been going on for months. Every time I go by, something has changed about how the roadway is being handled. Today, the safe bikeway and walkway that was there is now gone. Construction has pushed the fence up against what were formerly the barriers that separated the bikeway/walkway from traffic. Today there was a crane filling the space, which may be necessary, but that doesn’t change the clear message that the entire area is now construction zone with stored construction materials.

The section between K St and Kayak Alley is now being used to store construction materials and worker vehicles. The closure of the separated bikeway is not signed in any way; there have been signs here in the past, but they are gone. If you rode the bikeway without realizing it was closed, you would crash into construction materials.

I am not sure whether there is enough space left in the roadway to provide both a separated bikeway and a travel lane. If so, it should be modified for that. If not, the travel lane should be closed until the construction footprint shrinks again to allow the original walkway/bikeway.

It should be noted that the city did not initially provide the walkway/bikeway on 9th Street, and it was only installed after considerably public outcry.

These locations are a fraction of the ones throughout the city where the city has decided that motor vehicle traffic must be accommodated, but walkers and bicyclists do not. The construction guidelines code that the public requested the city develop and implement have been back-burnered because the city has decided to use staff to apply for grants rather than solving current problems on the roadways. I get more frustrated by the city by the day. I don’t really think they care at all. The car-dominated city, which was created by city planners and engineers, is just fine with them.

Measure 2022: interchanges galore!

Note: I had said I was pausing on the proposed transportation sales tax Measure 2022, but I’d forgotten to write about interchanges.

The proposed transportation sales tax measure Exhibit A: Transportation Expenditure Plan includes 31 instances of ‘interchange’. If you aren’t familiar with the term, it means the intersection of freeways and expressways with other sorts of roadway, or with other freeways and expressways. Two examples, one of a freeway interchange, and one of a freeway and arterial interchange:

Hwy 50 & Business 80 & Hwy 99 interchange
Hwy 5 & Cosumnes River Blvd interchange

Interchanges are very popular in the proposal.

location#
Citrus Heights2
Elk Grove2
Folsom5
Galt1
Rancho Cordova4
City of Sacramento5
County of Sacramento2
Highway Congestion Improvements4
interchanges in the TEP

Interchanges are very expensive. Miles of sidewalk or bike lanes could be constructed for the cost of one single interchange. Or new buses or bus-only lanes, or new light rail cars, or a bike-share program. Interchanges are far more expensive than the straight sections of freeways. Interchanges take a good deal of land, removing it from productive use and leaving wastelands in between that are not accessible and not usable for anything else. Interchanges are complex for drivers, so have many far more crashes than the straight sections.

Probably most important, freeway on-ramps and off-ramps create the most hostile and dangerous points for people walking and bicycling. Though interchanges can be build with right angle turns to enter from and exit to surface streets, and can be signalized so as to allow safe passage by walkers and bicyclist, they were never built that way in the past, and are only sometimes built that way now. Instead, there are swooping on-ramps that encourage drivers to reach freeway speeds while still on the surface street and ramp, and off-ramps that encourage drivers to maintain freeway speeds coming off the ramp and continuing on the surface streets. If you don’t believe this, please watch a freeway off-ramp for a while, for example, if you live in central city Sacramento, I-5 to P Street off-ramp, or I Street to I-5 on-ramp. You will see people going 55 mph or more on the surface street, slow to decelerate and quick to accelerate. Freeway on-ramps and off-ramps kill hundreds of walkers and bicyclist a year.

Our freeway system was essentially complete years ago, with the 1972 completion of the I-80 (then I-880) northern bypass. Freeways provide quick travel from point A to point B. As earlier explained in the streets – stroads – roads post, roads that imitate railroads, for quick travel between productive places, are a good thing. The original idea of Interstate highways was, for the most part, a good idea. Of course then they were driven through the heart of cities, including Sacramento, lost most of their value as travel routes, and destroyed the value of the cities they went through.

So why, now, do we need more interchanges, more points of access to and from freeways? The answer is almost entirely greenfield development, and the promotion of car trips for commuters from those greenfield developments. Interstate 5 and Interstate 80 could easily handle all the freight and long distance travel demands with two lanes in each direction. So what are all the other lanes for? Commuters. And what are all the new interchanges for? Commuters. Note that in this use of ‘commuter’, I’m including not just home to work trips, but all the other trips that are induced by having more lanes and more interchanges. Job-related trips are now only about 20% of all trips, even before the pandemic. For the existing interchanges proposed to be improved, the reason again is primarily the induced travel through greenfield development. If there weren’t new greenfield development, there wouldn’t be increased traffic.

Each interchange reduces the safety and speed of the freeway. Each interchange encourages motor vehicle trips that would otherwise not occur, by allowing people to travel longer distances more quickly, therefore considering living and working and shopping and recreating in places they would not have otherwise considered. Of course the convenience is illusory. It makes sense right after the new lanes and interchanges are added, but the law of induced travel quickly fills those lanes and those interchanges, generating calls for more lanes and ‘improved’ interchanges. Which induces more travel, which…, well, you get the idea.

If you haven’t, please walk or bike to any of the freeway overpasses in the Sacramento region, and spend some time observing the traffic below. You will see freight traffic, trucks trying to get through the area on their way somewhere else, stuck behind commuter traffic, crawling along. You will see most vehicles carrying a single person, what are called single-occupant vehicles (SOVs), but taking up the space that could be serving multiple individuals. Though there are only a few freeways where buses also run (I-80 towards Davis and I-5 towards the airport), you will see those multi-passenger vehicles stuck in traffic with SOVs.

The second Google map above, showing the new interchange at I-5 and Cosumnes River Blvd, is instructive. Why is the interchange here? To serve the Delta Shores development, which is currently just a suburban big box store shopping area, though it was intended to and may eventually serve new housing. This area was greenfield before, agricultural farming or ranching. The purpose of the interchange is not to serve existing drivers or residents or city, but to create new drivers, new customers in this case. It is true that a portion of the cost of the interchange was paid for by the developers, but there was still a huge cost to us, the taxpayers.

If you want a lot of new and improved interchanges, which induce more motor vehicle trips, pave over greenfield areas, and create serious hazards for walkers and bicyclists, then the proposed measure may be to your liking. If not, then I hope you see it as the wrong road to travel.

Search for category Measure 2022 to see posts as they are added.

Measure 2022: the path not taken

Note: I’ll pause for a bit on the Measure 2022 posts. What would you like to hear about? What are your perspectives? There will be a few posts on the transit aspects of the measure on Sacramento Transit Advocates and Riders (STAR) website and cross-posted here.

The proposed transportation sales tax measure neglects or discounts a number of progressive transportation items that certainly should be in a proposal in 2022. Overall, it pays too much attention to motor vehicle travel and too little to walking, bicycling and transit. Implementation Guidelines mention a number of good ideas, but these don’t really show up in the project list.

Some of the ‘paths not taken’:

• Managed lanes on freeways. Managed lanes should be rolled, and the income dedicated to maintaining those lanes, and funding other modes. Managed lanes should be converted from general purpose lanes, not added as capacity expansion.

• A major investment in maintaining and adding sidewalks would be a far better investment in a modern transportation network than any motor vehicle project.

• Parking should be managed so as to reduce motor vehicle use and to use some of the income to fund other modes. Parking is the purview of cities and the county, but to not even mention this critical issue seems an oversight.

• Land use is not mentioned, though transportation and land use are inextricably linked. An effective transportation network cannot succeed without supportive land use, and wise land use is not possible without a supportive transportation system. Sprawling transportation encourages sprawling land use, and vice-a-versa.

• Safe Routes to School programs are not mentioned. These programs increase student safety and are an aspect of transportation demand management, but they are not mentioned or funded, though the concept is partly addressed in the ‘Road Health and Safety’ paragraph.

• Transportation is a public health issue, but health is mentioned only in passing in the ‘Road Health and Safety’ paragraph and in the context of air quality. The car dominated environment we have created with prior transportation projects is a direct and continuing threat to public health. A transportation plan should work to undo these harms, not perpetuate them.

And here are some ideas from Jeff Speck, that are of relevance to this proposal. Quoted info from Walkable City Rules: 101 Steps to Making Better Places by Jeff Speck. If you don’t have a copy, you should!

Bike share is mentioned, but there is no acknowledgment that it can be a key factor to providing equitable transportation at lower cost.

  • “RULE 24: If your city is somewhat bikeable, introduce the most advanced bikeshare system possible, subsidized for those who need it, in conjunction with bike lane investment.”

Freeway removal, freeway lane reduction, and/or freeway capping is not mentioned.

  • “RULE 28: Replace urban highways with City-designed urban boulevards in locations where doing so will create a great increase in land value, simultaneously investing in transit along the corridor.”

Congestion pricing is not mentioned, though it is the least expensive way of increasing capacity by reducing unnecessary travel.

  • “RULE 29: If your downtown is congested, introduce a variable congestion-based toll for entry, and invest the proceeds in alternative transportation.”

Speed reduction is not mentioned. The arterial and collector streets already have posted speed limits and design speeds too high for a safe and livable place.

  • “RULE 31: Street design and design discourse should focus on reducing illegal speeding.”

Vision zero has only one mention, as a City of Sacramento project. Just as a complete streets policy is required, so should be a Vision Zero policy and implementation plan be required. So far as I know, only the City of Sacramento has this.

  • “RULE 33: Get your city to join the Vision Zero Network.”

Speed and red light running cameras, no mention at all.

  • “RULE 35: Put red-light and speed cameras wherever you can, prioritizing places where crashes have occurred. Shame state lawmakers into removing their restrictions.”

The entire plan relies on the functional classification system of freeways, arterials and collectors. This is an outmoded way of looking at transportation infrastructure.

  • “RULE 44: If possible, remove the functional classification designation from would-be walkable streets in traditional urban areas. At the least, do not allow these areas’ streets to be designed according to standards set by such a system.”

No mention of separated bikeways as best practice for arterials and collectors, or bike boulevards for parallel routes.

  • “RULE 57: Introduce regional bicycle boulevards located on calm streets that have low speed limits, no centerline, prominent markings, branded signage, and intersections designed and signed/ signalized to prioritize bikes over cars and trucks.”
  • “RULE 58: Build a network of cycle tracks, ideally by removing unnecessary driving lanes.”

Search for category Measure 2022 to see posts as they are added.

Measure 2022: fix-it-first

The proposed transportation sales tax measure includes several paragraphs on fix-it-first. The concept is that our transportation network should be maintained in a state of good repair, and that existing infrastructure should be maintained before new stuff is built. It is clear that we are not there. In fact, we can never get there. We have built more infrastructure than we can possibly maintain. There is no amount of money or taxation that can maintain what we’ve built. That is true everywhere, not just Sacramento County.

Many people were disappointed that SB 1 increase in gas tax didn’t fix very many streets. The legislation was directed mostly to state highways, and only partly to local streets and roads. Even at the state highway level, it is not enough money. At the local level, the amount of funding is a tiny fraction of what would be needed.

The proposal acknowledges the need for maintenance, beginning with the second paragraph of the Local Street and Road Repair and Transformative System Improvements section. The sales tax proposal is in part an attempt to overcome the local maintenance deficit with local funds.

For the first five years following implementation of this Measure (April 1, 2023, to March 31, 2028), not less than 90% of the funds identified for the Local Street and Road Repair and Transformative System Improvements program shall be used exclusively by all cities and the County of Sacramento for “Fix It First” road and bridge preventative maintenance and rehabilitation, including safety improvements, so as to bring these facilities throughout Sacramento County to a pavement condition index (PCI) of at least 70 at the soonest possible time, and bridges to meet acceptable state and federal standards.

Exhibit A: Transportation Expenditure Plan

This commitment is good. Every survey has indicated that fix-it-first is the highest public priority, and this interest probably accounted for much of the yes votes for the 2016 Measure B.

At the end of the five-year period following the date of implementation of this Measure (after March 31, 2028), not less than 50% of the funds identified for the Local Street and Road Repair and Transformative System Improvements program shall be used exclusively by all cities and the County of Sacramento for “Fix It First” street, road, and bridge preventative maintenance and rehabilitation so as to continue efforts to bring these facilities throughout Sacramento County to PCI of at least 70, and bridges to meet acceptable state and federal standards.

Exhibit A: Transportation Expenditure Plan

So, for the next 35 years of the measure, the allocation to maintenance can be much lower, or zero if PCI 70 is achieved. This seems reasonable, in the sense that if every cent were spent on maintenance, nothing new would ever be built. Of course, when it comes to motor vehicles, that would be just fine with me. But probably not with the public.

Notwithstanding these allocation restrictions, the percentage commitments to “Fix It First” maintenance and rehabilitation may be reduced, and any city and the County of Sacramento may direct a higher percentage of those funds to new transformative system improvements, provided the following conditions have been met:

The public agency manager responsible for road maintenance has certified in writing to the City Council and City Manager in a city and the Board of Supervisors and the County Chief Administrative Officer that the road facilities under their management have met or will meet within the next 12 months a 70 PCI rating.

The public agency manager responsible for road maintenance has submitted a written plan to the City Manager or County Chief Administrative Officer clearly demonstrating how the 70 PCI rating will be sustained in the future. Any diversion of the funds committed to maintenance and rehabilitation can only continue as long as ajurisdiction maintains an average PCI of 70 or above for its street and road system.In addition, local jurisdictions must maintain current levels of funding for maintenance and rehabilitation and shall not use funds from this allocation to offset existing funding planned or allocated for this purpose.

Exhibit A: Transportation Expenditure Plan

What concerns me is that there are exceptions offered. The transportation agencies have gamed the system before, building new while not maintaining existing, and in fact that is the pattern of tranportation spending ever since World War II. It seems unlikely that they will immediately change their approach to infrastructure maintenance. What if it becomes obvious that our roads, bridges and other transportation infrastructure are continuing to deteriorate? Will the engineers and planners and politicians be willing to forgo the big new projects and ribbon cuttings?

Search for category Measure 2022 to see posts as they are added.