9th Street between K Street and L Street has changed once again. The bicyclist issues have been ‘solved’ by the complete closure of the street. The sidewalk on the west side is open, but there is no motor vehicle traffic, no bicyclist traffic, and no bus traffic. There is a bus stop in this block which is once again inaccessible after having been closed for some while for the construction on the west side, was open briefly, and is now closed again.
I have been out of town, so am not sure when the closure took affect, but judging by the number confused drivers, including one transit driver, it must have been recently. The display sign says the closure will last through mid-July.
I have mixed feelings about these types of complete closures. To some degree they are just excuses for the construction company to store materials on the street, rather than other locations. But maybe with the hazards created for all modes by partial closures, complete closure is the best option. It does point out that drivers will adjust to the new situation without the world ending, as is often claimed by cars-first people.
For bicyclists not used to riding on K Street, be careful of the light rail tracks. To the west, the tracks are not hard to ride along, but to the east, between 9th Street and 10th Street, there is a cross-over that can trap you if you are riding between the two sets of tracks.
The intersection of 3rd Street and J Street is undergoing construction right now, most of it related to sewer line installation on 3rd Street, but perhaps related to other projects as well. Here is the Google image, not showing the current construction. I thought I had written about this intersection and its pedestrian hostility before, but I can’t find it searching, so it must have been one of those thoughts I never followed through on.
This has always been a problematic intersection. Two freeway off-ramps, coming from I-5 southbound and I-5 northbound, bring high speed drivers onto J Street without causing them to slow much from freeway speeds unless the lights happen to be red. 3rd Street is much calmers but has its own issues.
For a person walking north or south on the east side of 3rd Street, there are five crosswalks to navigate just to cross J Street. You can see in the photo that they are not well maintained, quite faded, low visibility crosswalks that many drivers would not even notice. Each crossing requires pushing a button, and since freeway off-ramp traffic is prioritized, each signal cycle is quite long. (For those counting, the reason I call this five crossings is that the crossing of 3rd Street on the south side had a short pedestrian cycle which was less than required by MUTCD and certainly less than should be available to walkers, so for most people, it had to be crossed in two stages, making for an even longer time to clear the intersection. Of course with no ped button on the median, one the second crossing just has to be done in a gap in traffic, against the signal.)
At this time, the intersection cannot be navigated at all. The northwest corner is under construction. Not sure why, as the ramps and curbs there were fairly new, but it is, which of course closes both the crossing of 3rd St and the crossing of the southbound off-ramp to J St. No signing and no barrier is in place on the northeast corner to indicate the closure. Notice that the pedestrian detour signs are still up on this route, even though it is not accessible. Notice also the very poorly designed curb ramp, with a detectable strip that sends walkers/rollers out into J St with its high speed traffic.
If on the other hand, you started into this mess on the south side of the intersection, there is no advance warning on the southeast corner that the crosswalk and sidewalk are closed ahead. But if somehow you approached the southwest corner, there is a sign placed in the ramp to prevent you from getting to or from the southwest corner. If there were a sign on this side, you would think there would be a sign and barrier on the southeast corner letting you know. You’d be be wrong.
What makes all of this particularly egregious is that pedestrian crossing on the east leg of the intersection is prohibited. See the prohibition signing and barricade on northeast and southeast corners, below.
First, sign and barricades sidewalks and crosswalks properly. It is well known how to do this, and failure indicates intentional neglect on the part of the construction company, and of the city staff that permits these construction projects.
Second, install a crosswalk over J Street on the east side of the intersection, so that walkers can cross in one quick crossing rather than five slow crossings. Crossing prohibitions are more than 90% of the time an effort by traffic engineers to speed motor vehicle traffic. They rarely have anything to do with safety, and in this case, the prohibition is not there for safety.
This construction project is yet one more of the issue in Sacramento where the city requirements and construction company implementation do not meet ADA requirements, nor MUTCD requirements. These practices create a hostile environment for walkers and bicyclists, and this is no ‘accident’. It is intentional, and it is probably criminal.
Added: I missed a great argument for installing a crosswalk over J Street on the east side. There is no reason for there even to be crosswalks to the west side of 3rd Street, as there are no sidewalks on the west side, to the north or to the south. So if one new crosswalk is installed on the east side, four can be removed, including the ped signals. That should make the traffic engineers salivate!
Though in most cases the construction zone signing and barriers improve after they are reported (first time, second time, third time…), sometimes they get worse. I had reported to the Sac311 system that there was no advance warning of the sidewalk closed ahead on the south side of J Street, westbound, at 7th Street. This the left hand photo below.
The ‘correction’ was to place an incorrect sign at the location, which is more confusing than the lack of a sign. I observed and listened for a while to people looking at this location. Every single one commented on the confusion. Does the detour sign point to a detour, or does it mean to cross the street? There were discussions and even arguments within couples and groups. The sign is the wrong sign, and it is placed in a very confusing manner, angled toward the sidewalk rather than perpendicular to it. The clear indication is to continue along the sidewalk if one wants to go west on J Street, but this is incorrect, as the sidewalk is closed a short distance away. This is the right hand photo.
The correct sign of course is this one, MUTCD R9-11 right, placed perpendicular to the path of travel along J Street. It could be argued that the sign should be orange rather than red, indicating a temporary traffic control (TTC) device, but at this time the MUTCD does not offer this sign in this color.
Things have changed again. The construction zone on the east side of 9th Street between K Street and L Street has changed again. The east parking lane and east travel lane are now dedicated to the construction project, the general purpose lane has been shifted right into the west parking lane, and the combined pedestrian/bicyclist bypass is now in what was the right hand general purpose lane.
One the plus side, detectable strips have been added to the left side of the bypass, which are required to provide protection from trip and crash hazards presented by the fence bases. Photo below.
The entrance to the bypass is still awkward, too narrow and poorly signed. There are still corrections to be made.
The section of 9th Street in Sacramento, between K Street and L Street, finally has an acceptable walking and bicycling pathway around the construction on both sides of the street. It looks as though the construction on the west side of 9th is getting closers to completion, so the sidewalk blockage on that side may disappear, but the east side construction is just beginning.
The pathway is about 12 feet wide, as originally promised, so that is taken care of. There are cones down the middle, the purpose of which I’m not clear about since there is no indication of directional or mode separation, but they do no harm. The signing and barricades on both the north side and south side are still lacking, the barricades not meeting ADA detectability requirements, and the signing less than ideal.
Two days ago the fencing had been pushed out into the pathway area. I’m not sure if this was a one-time occurrence, or will keep happening. The next day it was back in the right place.
After my moving the cone out of the bikeway on the approach at K Street several times, it seems to be staying out of the way.
This safe pathway for walkers and bicyclists is the direct result of citizen complaints, mine and several others. If not for these complaints, the city and the construction contractor would not have done anything. So, please report violations of ADA accommodation through the city’s 311 system, and if that doesn’t result in change, complain to your city council member. Though the city is working on new policy intended to address these failures, I suspect that indifference is so embedded in city staff that it will take a long while to see proactive solutions, and we will need to continue to report and complain for some while.
At the south edge of the sidewalk and bikeway closure, at L Street, there is now some signing, below. However, the signing and fencing do not meet ADA detectability requirements. Though there is more than one way of meeting detectability, an example graphic follows, showing a low bar across the entire width, detectable by canes used by vision impaired people. See my earlier post signs and diagrams for construction zones and construction zone solutions for more information on signing and barriers.
What would otherwise be a reasonable route and signing for northbound pedestrians is blocked by an open construction gate. This open gate was not being actively used in any way, it had just been left open. A person walking is forced to walk outside the crosswalk to get to the bypass.
For southbound bicyclists on 9th Street at K Street, the diversion starts suddenly, pushing bicyclists into the traffic lane without warning. This is not necessary, the construction cone placed blocking the separated bikeway should not be there. This is just plain sloppiness. The bikeway could remain open, with a half block available to place signing that explains there will be a diversion and bypass ahead.
Then there is the entrance to the walking and bicycling bypass, below. The same lack of detectable barriers as in the first item also exists here. If a vision limited walker encountered the construction fencing across the sidewalk, they would have no idea where the bypass is. The ‘sidewalk closed’ and ‘pedestrian detour’ signs are MUTCD compliant signs, MUTCD R9-9 and MUTCD M9-4b respectively, but they need to be placed on or above a detectable barrier, not on sawhorses which do not meet detectability requirements. The ‘bikes’ sign is a made-up sign, and because of its size, it intrudes into the shared bike and pedestrian space. I can imagine bicyclists hitting the sign on their way into the bypass. The correct sign for the location is actually MUTCD M9-4a, shown below.
It took about four weeks for the city and construction company to come up with and implement a new traffic control plan, which is ridiculous. If there had been a problem with motor vehicle traffic instead of for walkers and bicyclists, it would have been solved in less than a week. And it would have been done right. Either the new traffic control plan does not really meet ADA requirements, or the signing and barricades placed do not follow the traffic control plan. Remember, this is a city project, reconstruction of Capitol Park Hotel, so not only is the city responsible for managing streets, but also for managing the construction project. Take a look at the photos, or go walk or bicycle the section of 9th Street between K Street and L Street. The sloppiness of the work is glaring. As I’ve said before, the city does not care about walkers and bicyclists, and is not fulfilling its legal responsibilities.
Why is that I, a private citizen, continually have to tell the city when they are doing things wrong, and how to do it right?
The City of Sacramento is not taking the failures of its construction zone signing and maintenance seriously. I have forwarded a number of issues to the city, both via email and via the 311 service. Nothing seems to have come of any of this. I have not seen a single location corrected. The 311 requests are being closed without being corrected. It is not clear to me whether the city staff are incompetent, or simply don’t care, but I’m going to list some resources I’ve found useful. These may be useful to readers, so that you can recognize failures and report them as well.
The Manual of Uniform Traffic Control Devices (MUTCD) addresses construction zones in Part 6: Temporary Traffic Control Devices. California has its own version, similar but not identical, the CA-MUTCD Part 6. Don’t misunderstand me, the MUTCD/CA-MUTCD is very weak on pedestrian and bicyclist accommodation. If you randomly threw a dart at the manual, 999 times out of 1000, you would see text or signs or diagrams that assume that pedestrians and bicyclists don’t exist. Nevertheless, the manual has the force of law, for any agency that uses federal funding, and it is what most agencies use as the gospel.
Note that the MUTCD prohibits the use of tape, rope, or plastic chain strung between devices because they are not detectable and do not comply with the design standards in the ADAAG; therefore, they may not be used as a control for pedestrian movements (MUTCD 6D.01).
National Work Zone Safety Information Clearinghouse
An new housing development at 16th Street and E Street (remember, I’m not against housing developments) has significant problems. At the southeast corner of 16th and E, the corner has been completely blocked by construction barriers and fencing, so there is no safe wait space for people using the crosswalk, and therefore both crosswalks should be closed. There should be a barrier and signing on the east side crosswalk over E Street, and there should be a barrier and signing for the south side crosswalk over 16th Street. Neither are there.
The project also has problems on 16th Street approaching from the south, where the sidewalk end, but a small sidewalk closed sign is not visible because it is on a canted fence, and there is no advance warning at F Street.
On E Street westbound, there is a construction fence with no sidewalk closed signing, nor is there any advanced signing at the last safe crossing at 17th Street.
This property and development is apparently owned by SKK Development, Sotiris Kolokotronis, and is called Eleanor Apartments.
The apparently dead redevelopment project at 700 16th Street, the old Clarion Hotel, which occupies the block between 16th and 15th, and H Street and Government Alley, has closed sidewalks for a long period of time, even though nothing is happening there. The sidewalks closed are on H Street, the entire block, and 15th Street, the half block. As seen in the first photo below, there is enough pedestrian traffic on 15th Street to have worn a path in the sidewalk buffer. The solution here is to require the developer to remove this fence. If fencing is needed, which is doubtful on this side of the building, it should be on the property and not in the buffer. Re-opening this piece of sidewalk until such time as there is active development is the right thing to do.
On the northwest corner of 15th Street and H Street, the corner could have been left open so that the two crosswalks could be safely used, but it was not. Instead, a sloppy fencing job leaves a sidewalk too narrow for ADA use.
The sidewalk closure on H Street might need to remain because there is building access on this side, but it should be properly signed approaching from the east, which is is not.
Lastly, on 15th Street southbound at Government Alley, there is a fence but no signing, and there is no advance warning at G Street that the sidewalk is closed ahead.
This property is apparently owned by SKK Development, Sotiris Kolokotronis, and is called The Bernice. This failure to accommodate walkers is both the fault of the owner/developer, for the poor job of fencing and signing, and of the city for failing to monitor the situation (and perhaps for allowing it to exist in the first place). This also points out that there must be bonds for construction zone fencing and signing so that if a owner/developer fails to proceed with development, the city can go in and partially or fully restore access at the developer’s expense.
So, now that I’ve spent several posts complaining, on to solutions. The city is working an ordinance for construction zone handling, but I have not seen any draft documents. When something is available, I’ll add it.
The City of Oakland has what is generally considered to be the model guidance (http://www2.oaklandnet.com/oakca1/groups/pwa/documents/memorandum/oak062315.pdf), though Seattle also has something good that I’ve not tracked down yet. Sacramento could do well to simply adopt the Oakland guidance, but it is pretty radical for Sacramento, so I’m expecting something weaker to come out. Let me say what I think is most important.
Let me credit Robert Prinz of Bike East Bay for publicizing the guidance (he may have also had a part in developing it, not sure about that), and for monitoring compliance and publicizing failures. He is an inspiration for me.
Responsibility for approving traffic control plans should be removed from Construction Services and placed in another division of Public Works that will actually ensure quality traffic control plans and enforcement as needed. Construction Services has demonstrated that they cannot be trusted with this responsibility. They continually bias for motor vehicle traffic and drivers, and against walkers and bicyclists.
Construction sites should be inspected on a regular basis by city personnel, to ensure that they have correctly installed the signing and barriers specified in their approved traffic plan, and that these are maintained until completion of the project.
Fines will be imposed on construction companies that do not correct problems within 12 hours of reporting to the city, by city staff or by citizens. If the construction company fails to correct the issue within 48 hours, the construction project should be shut down.
Sidewalks and bike lanes:
For any roadway with more than one general purpose travel lane in the same direction, it shall be automatic that temporary sidewalks and bicycle lanes will be placed instead one lane.
For any roadway with parking lane on the same side as the construction zone, it shall be automatic that temporary sidewalks and bicycle lanes will be placed in the parking lane.
For any roadway where the bicyclist and/or pedestrian traffic is above a certain level (I’m not sure what the number should be), if no accommodation can be made by using a parking lane or general purpose travel lane, then the road will be closed to motor vehicle traffic in one or both directions for the duration of the project.
ADA compliant barriers and signing will be used at ALL construction projects which close a crosswalk, no matter what the duration of the project. For any closure of over a week, fixed metal barriers should be used (see photo below). Plastic barricade poles or construction tape will never be used by themselves to mark a closure.
Unless the closest safe crossing is clearly evident from the point of closure, wayfinding signs will be included specifying the shortest distance and safest crossing.
Signing off for now with the construction zone topic. I found several more problematic locations on my walk this morning, but I need to take mental break from this, and talk about other things.
As always, I invite your comments and additions. Stay safe walking and bicycling out there, but don’t stay home. Your sanity requires being outside, or at least that is my opinion.