I-5/Richards Interchange

The City of Sacramento is soliciting comments on its Interstate 5 / Richards Boulevard Interchange Project. Please take a look and comment.

My comments are summarized as:

  • The safety justification doesn’t hold water. The interchange itself has no fatal collisions and no severe injuries during the period of time analyzed (safety starts at about 9:56 in the video). The severe injury collisions are all outside the project area. The city is definitely trying to gaslight people on the safety issue. If the city were actually concerned about safety, they would be doing projects at the severe injury locations. But they are not. In fact, unnecessary projects like this one gobble up the funds that could be used to solve real safety issues. It is worth pointing out that this area is not a high priority in the city’s Vision Zero program. There are many, many areas in the city with far higher collision rates.
  • The information on bicycle and pedestrian improvements is very fuzzy. Nothing is indicated that to me makes is seem safer for either. More traffic means less safety, unless the safety improvements are substantial, and I just do not see that here. See DDI comment below.
  • The project points out rightly there there will be increased demand for travel as a result of residential, commercial, and public development in the Railyards and River District areas. But it makes no mention of other ways of solving the issue. Demand management? Never heard of it. The project simply accepts that traffic congestion will get worse if no infrastructure is built, so infrastructure must be built. Of course the EIR has to consider the no-build alternative to be legal, but the city is certainly not presenting that option to the public.
  • The project uses traffic delay through the interchange (on the interstate) to justify the project. The current traffic delay is due to the fact that commuter traffic has been encouraged by the provision of additional capacity on Interstate 5 to the south of the city, and on Interstate 80 east and west of the city. Of course things will get worse at this location, as more people commute and travel on this increased capacity. This is called induced travel, and is to be expected. Induced travel is increased by capacity expansion projects.
  • The city wants to spend $46 to $100 million of your tax money to ‘solve’ this problem. If we let them do that, they will be back in a few years with another project to ‘solve’ the problem at some other nearby pinch point, and the new project will be even more expensive because they have induced more travel by ‘solving’ the perceived congestion problem here.

It is time for us to demand that highways engineers be cut off from building new capacity. They see the taxpayer pockets as their piggy bank. Fix what we have, and invest the remaining transportation funds in supporting walking, bicycling, and transit.

The projects proposes making the interchange into a diverging diamond interchange (DDI), where the travel lanes switch sides under the freeway so as to reduce the number of intersections, and to ease common vehicle movements. Some people hate DDIs. Traffic and highway engineers love them. I’m pretty indifferent. I have spent a lot of time observing DDIs, before and after. They do offer some improvement in traffic flow, and they do offer minor improvement in safety for drivers. They are not any better or worse for bicyclist and pedestrian comfort and safety, IF they are designed properly (I’ve seen some very poor installations, some of which won awards from AASHTO, the highway lobby entity, that never saw an expensive project it did not love). It does take a period of a year or two for people to adjust to the different feeling of a DDI, but that is not necessarily bad. So my opposition to this project is not due to the DDI, but other issues. Others may feel differently.

Sacramento Riverfront Reconnection, Phase 1

2nd Street extension to Capitol Mall
2nd Street extension to Capitol Mall

SACOG in the 2013 funding round allocated $9M to the Riverfront Reconnection project in the City of Sacramento. This phase extends 2nd Street from Old Sacramento to Capitol Mall, providing an easier access to Old Sacramento, and also adds sidewalks to O Street and improves sidewalks and bike lanes on Capitol Mall between 3rd Street and the Tower Bridge. The overall purpose is to create or restore connections between downtown Sacramento and Old Sacramento which were severed by Interstate 5.

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The I Street mess

Thank you, Elle, for reminding me in your “transportation ‘planning’ downtown” that I wanted to write about I Street. Note: If you are looking at Google Maps, it does not show the current lane configuration on I Street since the repaving and re-striping project of last fall, nor the realignment of tracks and work on extending 5th and 6th streets over the tracks.

I Street from the 4th Street crosswalk
I Street from the 4th Street crosswalk; I have the walk signal but this is still scary

I Street in Sacramento approaching the train station is a mess. Starting with the confusing floating bike lane between 7th and 6th streets (subject of a future post), the street becomes worse and worse: five lanes wide, high speed, and completely unfriendly to bicyclists and pedestrians. For pedestrians, the crossing on the east side of the I/5th intersection is uncomfortable because westbound traffic is already moving at high speed and often runs the red light, and right turning cars from I to 5th often do not yield to pedestrians in the crosswalk. The west side is so unsafe due to traffic turning left off 5th Street, it is signed against pedestrian crossing, even though this is a logical walking route from downtown to the train station. A crosswalk has been added on the east side of the I/4th intersection, but it has the same challenges that drivers are moving too fast and often run the run light. When I used this new crosswalk, I was very concerned, and I have a much higher tolerance for danger than most people do.

The right-most two travel lanes lead to the high-speed northbound I-5 freeway onramp, so drivers passing 6th Street are already accelerating to freeway speeds, many times going 55 mph as they cross through the I/5th intersection. The next two lanes lead to a medium speed onramp to the I Street bridge over the Sacramento river, and to the southbound I-5 onramp. For pedestrians, the only way to go westbound towards Old Sacramento is to go through the parking lot for the train station and under the onramps along an ugly, dark, poorly marked pedestrian way.

Continue reading “The I Street mess”