9th St blocked by construction

Thank you, Ali Doerr Westbrook, for flagging the latest violation of walker and bicyclist accommodation on a construction project in Sacramento.

The east side of 9th St between L St and the alley is blocked by a construction project. Both the sidewalk and bike lane are blocked. There is no advance signing at 9th and K for southbound walkers and bicyclists, as required by ADA. There is no signing on the construction fencing, as required by ADA. Construction fencing is not an acceptable detectable warning, as required by ADA. Note that this construction project, the conversion of Capitol Park Hotel into supportive housing, is a city project, so not only is the city responsible for a traffic plan that accommodates walkers and bicyclists, but field checking that the plan is being followed, and enforcing it when it is not.

9th St at K St, no advance warning of closure ahead for walkers or bicyclists

This blockage would in itself be bad, but it is made worse by the blockage of the sidewalk on the west side of 9th St, between K and the alley. This private project is also not properly signed and barricaded. Between these two projects, there is NO walker access on 9th St between K St and L St. None. None. None. Of course one could cross at the alley between one side and the other, but then the city conveniently has a walker-hostile code that crossing streets at alleys is illegal. Got the bases covered, Sacramento!

Though the most egregious, this incident is just the latest in a series of offences in the central city. I have posted on some of these here (tag: construction zone), and on Twitter. I’ve also reported a large number of them to the city’s 311 app. Of these 311 reports, about half are closed without anything being done. Making the same report multiple times increases the likelihood, but doesn’t guarantee it.

The worst of the violations are on city projects. The renewal of Memorial Auditorium had issues. Though now finished, it resulted in the permanent closure of the sidewalk on the south side of I Street. The next worse offense is the ongoing city project called 3C, the convention center and community auditorium construction project. Though some of the issues have been resolved here, several remain, particularly on the 15th St side. And this Capitol Park Hotel project is also a city project. There have been other city project problems, but I don’t have time today to go back through my records and photos to identify all of them.

In response to the concerns from myself and many others, the city had said that it would come up with a construction accommodation policy. After a year, nothing has happened. The city, at least the part of the city responsible for construction zone traffic plans, just does not care. Walkers and bicyclists are routinely ignored or actively discriminated against, in favor of motor vehicle drivers. The city is in violation of its ADA consent decree in allowing these issues to occur and to continue.

Temporary Traffic Control (TTC) references

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.

pedestrian barricade, with detectable edge (National Work Zone Safety Info Clearinghouse)

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

16th & E construction problems

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.

16th Street & E Street, no crosswalk barrier

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.

16th Street northbound, no visible signing

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.

E Street westbound, no signing

This property and development is apparently owned by SKK Development, Sotiris Kolokotronis, and is called Eleanor Apartments.

closed sidewalk & dead project at 700 16th

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.

15th Street use path, north of H Street, old Clarion Hotel

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.

15th Street & H Street, northeast corner, no ADA access for crosswalks

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.

H Street & 16th Street no signing

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.

15th Street at Government Alley, no signing

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.

construction zone solutions

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.

  1. Management:
    • 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.
  2. 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.
  3. Crosswalks:
    • 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.
crosswalk closure barrier
ADA detectable crosswalk closure barrier

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.

This series of posts is available at https://gettingaroundsac.blog/tag/construction-zone/, and supporting photos at https://www.flickr.com/photos/allisondan/albums/72157713569318138.

walking…

A brief aside before I get to the solutions for construction zones.

I’ve been out walking
I don’t do that much talking these days
These days
These days I seem to think a lot
About the things that I forgot to do, for you
And all the times I had the chance to

Jackson Browne, “I’ve Been Out Walking” or “These Days” 1967/1973

I’ve realized in the last few days that I could spend a week, and fill up a week with blog posts, about construction zone problems in just the central city, and could probably spend a month on it in the entire city. Prior to the shelter-in-place, I was mostly bike riding for time reasons, but now that I have more time, I’ve been walking a lot more, and I see a lot of construction activity that I failed to notice on bike. When I’m bicycling, I just go around the construction zone, taking the lane, because that is what I mostly do anyway, and don’t think about it that much. However, most people aren’t willing to take the lane in traffic, and therefore are stopped cold by these construction zones that do not carry the bike lane through. My posts will continue to be mostly about issues for walkers because I see walkers as being more vulnerable users of the public right-of-way, as compared to bicyclists, and collision statistics back that up, however, I recognize that there are plenty of issues for bicyclists as well.

signs and diagrams for construction zones

Note: I’ve added MUTCD R9-10 ‘sidewalk closed – use other side’ below. This is definitely not my preferred sign, as it provides no information about the shortest or safest detour. Nevertheless, it is legal.

Coming up, some suggested solutions for construction zone accommodation for walkers and bicyclists, but first, the relevant signs and markings. These are MUTCD (Manual for Uniform Traffic Control Devices) compliant signs, which are always what should be used, not the hand-made and/or non-compliant signs that are sometimes used.

MUTCD M4-9b sign: pedestrian detour
M4-9b
MUTCD R9-9 sign: sidewalk closed
R9-9
MUTCD R9-11a sign: sidewalk closed, cross here
R9-11a
MUTCD R9-11a sign: sidewalk closed ahead, cross here
R9-11a
MUTCD R9-10 sign: sidewalk closed, use other side
R9-10

The no pedestrians sign, MUTCD R9-3a, is intended for permanent closures of crosswalks, not temporary closures of sidewalks, and so should not be used for construction zones.

MUTCD R9-3a sign: no pedestrian crossing

In the MUTCD, 154 pages are dedicated to Temporary Traffic Control Devices, almost all of which treat roadways as though walkers and bicyclists did not exist, but there are four pages and two diagrams which do show accommodation. For those unfamiliar with the MUTCD, the word shall means there is no choice, it must be done. So every construction zone that does not follow these is a violation of the law. The most important text is below, and the two diagrams follow.

“Standard:

  1. When crosswalks or other pedestrian facilities are closed or relocated, temporary facilities shall be detectable and shall include accessibility features consistent with the features present in the existing pedestrian facility.

Standard:

  1. When crosswalks or other pedestrian facilities are closed or relocated, temporary facilities shall be detectable and shall include accessibility features consistent with the features present in the existing pedestrian facility.
  2. Curb parking shall be prohibited for at least 50 feet in advance of the midblock crosswalk.”
MUTCD Figure 6H-29: sidewalk detour or diversion
MUTCD 6H-29: crosswalk closures and pedestrian detours

miscellaneous construction woes

I recognize that all the examples of construction zone problems (and a few done right) have been central city Sacramento. This is for two reasons, one is that I live downtown, and when I’m out on my physical distancing walks, these are the places I’m seeing. The second is that a lot of the construction happening in the entire city is happening in downtown, particularly the projects which require extensive closure of sidewalks, and bike lanes. If you have examples from other places, please let me know (allisondan52@gmail.com) and I will try to get there to take photos and analyze the situation. For those of you in the county, well, that is too much to tackle, and in a relative sense the county is economically moribund, so much less construction is going on.

Please don’t take my criticism of construction zones at being a criticism of construction. I love that there is a lot of construction going on. In midtown, most of the construction is housing, and nothing could make me happier. In downtown, there is more office construction than housing construction, and that is not a good thing, as it further exacerbates the jobs/housing imbalance in downtown. Except right around the arena, and in old town, there are few businesses and almost none are open on weekends because there is so little housing as compared to offices.

Below, a few last examples, before I move on to solutions. The first was a temporary issue, but it is illustrative of the problems. A mobile message board was placed in the center of the separated bikeway on 9th Street, even though there was a cross-hatched area immediately adjacent where is could have been placed, without constraining the bikeway or the general purpose lanes. I am not sure whose mistake this was, but anyone with a brain would know that this was the wrong place to put it. The sign was moved within a day of my reporting it to the city, but these are things that should be done right, not relying on citizens to correct mistakes.

9th Street separated bikeway, mobile message board

There is currently a utility project along the north side of L Street between 13th St and 10th Street. The photo belows shows the situation at L Street & 11th Street. The signing is acceptable, though the use of plastic barricade poles is not, but the issue is that the detour doesn’t tell you how far. A block? Several? Where is the nearest safe crossing? As referred to in the What? Cross Where? post, the west side of this intersection has a pedestrian prohibition, but you can see someone crossing here. And why not? What else could they do?

L Street at 11th Street, signing but no information, improper barricade

This next one was a temporary closure on 10th Street. There is signing, but rather than being placed at the point where a walker could either choose to cross to the east side of the street, or to walk through Cesar Chavez Plaza and back to the sidewalk, it was placed where the closure starts. Again, the plastic barricade poles do not meet ADA requirements because they are not detectable for person with vision limitations. While some would say, well this is just temporary, for a day, and standards should be lower, I disagree. It may be perfectly acceptable to not provide an alternative route for a temporary closure, but the signing and sign locations should be the same for all closures, whether they last an hour, a day, a week, a month, a year.

10th Street, west side, temporary closure

And one last example, though I have dozens more. The 3rd Street Sewer project has closed off 3rd Street from S Street to U Street. An attempt has been made to keep the sidewalks open, and I seriously appreciate this effort, as many construction projects would simply close off the sidewalks along with the street, and not think twice. However, construction tape does not a safe route make. The detour signs are clear, but no attempt is made to provide a detectable barrier. And construction tape…

3rd Street & T Street closure, signing, tape

830K construction zone

Yet another. There is a construction project, or at least a fencing off for future construction, at 830K, a long abandoned building. Along 9th Street, a fence has been put up where there used to be a bus stop, extending from K Street to and including Kayak Alley.

Southbound at K Street, there is no signing on the fence at all. This is not a major flaw, as it is obvious the sidewalk is closed, but there is no information about how far the closure extends.

9th Street southbound at K Street, west side (830 K)

From the south end, things are much worse. There is no signing at L Street to indicate there is a closure ahead. When you get to the closure, there is a random assortment of barricades, each of which is non-ADA compliant, and not indication which way to go. If Kayak Alley were open, it would at least offer an alternative, but the alley is closed.

9th Street, northbound at Kayak Alley, west side (830 K)

The worst part of this is that, so far as I can tell, nothing is going on here. The sidewalk, and bus stop, was closed off by fencing, but since then, nothing is happening. The point here is that there should be requirements placed on construction projects that if they stall out, the sidewalks must be returned to their previous open condition until such time as construction resumes.

poor accommodation at 3C

The convention center and community center theater project (3C) project did a very poor job of preserving access for walkers and bicyclists at the beginning. Some issues have been resolved, but some never have, though the project has now been going on for just less than two years.

The most significant issue is that there was no provision made for northbound bicyclists on 13th Street, passing the construction between L Street and J Street. 13th is a major bicyclist route of travel, and the city knew this before the construction started. But the original traffic plan did not address this use at all. After public complaints, a sign was installed on the sidewalk for northbound bicyclists, photo below, but not the southbound. The numerous walkers using this sidewalk, adjacent to the Marriott and Sheraton convention facilities, were confused to see bicyclists on the crowded sidewalk. After more public complaints, a sign was added southbound, the second photo, though it is placed in a location where people coming from K Street would not necessarily see it. As you can see in the first photo, the sidewalk is narrow just north of the crosswalk, so bicyclists heading north are brought into immediate conflict with pedestrians heading south, many of whom are headed to the crosswalk over L Street. Of course having an angled ADA ramp here, rather than the two-to-a-corner design that should be used wherever there is significant pedestrian traffic, makes things worse.

Of course the best solution here would have been to just close 13th Street to motor vehicles between K Street and L Street, leaving the narrowed roadway available for two-way bicyclist traffic. There are far more bicyclists using this route than private vehicle drivers. Despite that, the city biased in favor of drivers.

13th Street northbound at L Street
13th Street southbound at K Street

One issue on which progress was made was the southeast corner of J Street and 13th Street. Initially this corner was closed, giving walkers only one choice of how to cross, despite this being one of the most heavily used intersection crossings in the city. There was no reason to close the corner off, the area behind the fence was never used for construction. After about a year and a half, the corner was re-opened, photo below, so that walkers have a choice of routes. Note that when the city finally worked on this corner, the work was not done behind the fence, but the fence was moved and then the sidewalk and ramp work done by closing off the corner until it was done.

J Street & 13th Street, southeast corner, finally re-opened

On the east side of the project, issues remain. The sidewalk from J Street south along 15th Street has no signing indicating that it is closed ahead, see photo. When you get half way, there is just a fence blocking access. In daylight, you can see the fence ahead, but a limited vision person and anyone walking at night would not see the fence until they got to it. This is simply unacceptable.

15th Street west side, southbound from J Street, no signage

There are several other less serious issues around the east and south sides. At K Street & 15th Street, there is no signing to indicate how to get to the other side, to go either northbound or southbound. This one is not hard to figure out, at least for sighted people, but it was still not done correctly. This crosswalk ramp should have been barriered off, just like the ADA compliant barriers in the previous post, since it only leads to a closed crosswalk.

On the south side of the project, there are plastic barriers for the crosswalk over 14th Street at L Street, and for the crosswalk over L Street on the west side of 14th Street. These barriers were knocked over months ago and have not been put up again. There were not sufficient to begin with, but laying down on the ground, are both useless and hazardous.

14th Street at L Street, failed barrier
L Street at 14th Street, west side crosswalk, failed barrier

I’m going to call this one a failure on the part of both the construction company and the city: the construction company for failing to monitor and maintain the traffic control devices for which they are legally responsible, and the city for failing to monitor the construction company. Blame all around!

And lastly, the closure of a lane on L Street for the construction was not handled well. As you can see, there is a narrow crosshatched area the length of the block. One might reasonable choose not to go this way, but then again I see people going this way every day, both walking and bicycling. I am not sure how this should have been handled, but there must be a better solution. Of course one solution would have been to continue a temporary pedestrian walkway on the north side of the street, set off by concrete barricade, and requiring only a simple fence to separate the walkway from the construction site. If more street width was required, parking could have been removed from the south side and the general purpose lanes shifted to the left. Note there there never was a bicycle lane present in this block, it is dropped at 15th Street and the traffic sewer 3-lane roadway continues west.

L Street westbound at 14th Street, narrow shoulder

In closing, this construction project is probably the worst in the city (though there is competition). It does not involve a private property owner, it does not involve a state construction project, it is a city project on city land. There is simply no excuse for such poor walker and bicyclist accommodation. It is a big middle finger to those to who don’t drive.