The MUTCD (Manual for Uniform Traffic Control Devices) is a bit confused (and a lot lacking) when it comes to signs for temporary traffic control devices. Orange is supposed to be the color for temporary traffic control devices, yet the manual uses regulatory (white) signs for sidewalks in construction zones. A white sign indicates permanence, an orange sign indicates temporary. That subtlety seems beyond the comprehension of the people who write the MUTCD, but I’m here to help them. Below are the pairs of signs for sidewalk closure in construction zones. On the left is the existing MUTCD sign, on the right is the sign as it should be.
There might be situations in which the permanent, white regulatory sign might be appropriate, though the number of such situations is and should be rare. Sidewalks should be continuous, not broken, not closed.
Note that I did not include the R9-10 sign with arrows pointing both ways, since I can’t think of a context in which that would be the appropriate sign. Unless someone can, it should be removed from the MUTCD.
I have also suggested that all TTC signs be given a unique code, not M, not R, not W, but perhaps T.
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.
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.
Note: updated 2020-03-28 to correct lane descriptions and add a photo of the lane shift.
On the south side of I Street, between 15th Street and 16th Street, the city has permanently closed the sidewalk. This was to construct a loading dock for Memorial Auditorium. I had noticed the construction going on there, the first phase of the city’s project for the convention center and community center theater, and just assumed things would be returned to normal when construction was complete. How wrong I was. I was flabbergasted when I saw this. The loading dock sticks quite a ways into what used to be the public right of way, erasing the sidewalk and two parking lanes (the general purpose lanes were shifted to the right). The loading dock is concrete, intended to be there forever. See the photos below.
If the loading area was really than important, and could not be provided anywhere else, the city could have set things up for easy temporary closure of some of the street so as to allow loading when needed. They did not, they made it permanent.
I have walked by here, on the sidewalk, when events were going on at the Memorial Auditorium and there were a lot of walkers using this sidewalk. I imagine for a lot of other uses as well.
Also note that the ‘ bike lane’ stripe does not meet standards for a bike lane because it is immediately adjacent to a hard barrier and fence, so requires shy distance not provided. So that means when there are eventually bike lanes on I Street, this will be a gap, permanently.
What the fuck were you thinking, City of Sacramento?
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 (firstname.lastname@example.org) 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.
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?
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.
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…