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.

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

Continuing construction woes

Construction projects all over the city of Sacramento continue to bias motor vehicle travel over walkers and bicyclists. This has been going on for a long time, and it has not gotten any better. A few construction projects handle it appropriately, most do not.

One issue that I ran into yesterday is particularly galling because of the long detour it takes to bypass the construction site at the corner of J Street and 4th Street, at the California Fruit Building (not sure if it will have the same name after reconstruction). From the southeast corner of J Street & 3rd Street to the southeast corner of J Street & 4th Street is 380 feet, along a sidewalk which has been closed by construction. The detour is 785 feet, but the important issue is not the distance but the time. The detour requires pressing five beg buttons and using five crosswalks, a walk of 7.25 minutes, most of that time waiting for the pedestrian signal to change. A direct route would be just over a minute.

J Street south side, eastbound past 3rd

This map (Google) shows the detour.

What are the alternatives? One is that a travel lane could be removed from J Street. Both a pedestrian walkway and a bicycle lane could be temporarily installed in this section past the construction. Another is to install a crosswalk on the east leg of the J Street & 3rd Street intersection. Pedestrian crossing is currently prohibited (by signing and guard rail) at this location, but the prohibition is solely for the flow of motor vehicle traffic and the convenience of drivers, it has nothing to do with pedestrian safety. The crosswalk need not be temporary, it could be a permanent installation. Of course this crosswalk would require two crossings, but two is better than five.

Short of these two real fixes, the signing could be better. In the photo below, there is an unobvious sign indicating a detour to the west, but it doesn’t say which sidewalk. I did not understand what it meant until I had walked down to the construction fence. On the sidewalk that is closed, there is no indication until reaching the construction fence that the sidewalk is closed. There should be some indication of how long, or how many crossings, for the detour. A person might decide to turn around and head south to L Street, or to the access points to K Street, if they had more information. This photo also shows the pedestrian prohibition established for traffic flow rather than pedestrians safety.

In the westbound direction, there is even less information. The sign says sidewalk closed, and there is a vandalised construction arrow, which might or might not indicate the detour route.

J Street south side, westbound at 4th

I don’t blame most of this type of issue on the construction companies. The construction company has to get a permit from the city, which includes a traffic plan. The city is accepting, and in some cases encouraging, traffic plans with no, or insufficient, accommodation for pedestrians and bicyclists, and insufficient signing. Of course the construction company wishes to minimize the work and the signing, but it should be the city’s responsibility to ensure good traffic plans. It rarely does. I will remind readers again that the city employee who supervises this permitting process said that pedestrians and bicyclists would be accommodated if it did not interfere with traffic flow.

Since I have time on my hands, I’ve been walking a lot more in downtown/midtown, with social distancing of course, so I hope to add additional posts on this topic.