A Tale of Two Crossings: Nothin' from nothin' leaves nothin'
June 06, 2023
* If Nishi can't be built, there's nothing to trade as a mitigation
* Dedicated bike-ped crossing of the Yolo Bypass was quietly cancelled after years of promises.
Tonight's City Council Agenda item on the 80 Yolo Managed Project was already covered critically and nearly exhaustively last weekend in the Davis Enterprise and yesterday here in the Davisite and in the Davis Vanguard.
A Bridge That Can't Be Built...
I arrived in town after Nishi 1.0 (retroactively supported a concept that would involve a complete redesign of the 80-Richards interchange inclusive of a parking structure and Park & Ride for regional buses which would have minimal impacts on Richards) and was against Nishi 2.0 because I don’t think that there should be housing (buildings with windows people open!) so close to the noisy and arguably otherwise-polluting interstate, but it’s not why I am suggesting that the proposed “multi-modal” mitigation is a fallacy. I agree with others that no VMT mitigations should happen with this project, and am trying to make clear that the plan of Caltrans and its erstwhile partners are also a mess from a technical point of view. (There's also the sheer ironic delight of trying to facilitate the construction of a project using these VMT credits - as it were - to make the Nishi space noisier and more polluted next to a widened interstate.)
The 80-railway corridor is a wall for people on bikes, but so is the railway on its own. See Pole Line over 80 at lower right in the illustration above. It’s incredibly long because it has to go very high over the railway tracks, more so than to get over 80 itself (to better understand this, picture the crossings over 113 which are much lower as they only need to accommodate trucks.) First of all, this – and all the over-crossings of 80 in town – are simply not comfortable and suitable for people on normal bicycles, especially carrying children, and especially if they can make the journey by private motor vehicle or e-bike. The over-crossings have around a 6 to 7% grade, nearly twice as high as the Dutch standard: So to make it comfortable for hundreds of people to go from Nishi to campus it would have to be nearly twice as long. Look again at the view of 80 at Pole Line: There’s no space for this unless it’s very circuitous and indirect and lands behind the Shrem Museum or just by the entrance to Solano Park from Old Davis Rd. (The red line in the top of the image is only as long as Pole Line, and it needs to be much longer.) And that’s just for cycling. Imagine walking this at least twice a day. Motor vehicles including buses can obviously do this, but that's no one's definition of "multi-modal".
I feel confident in saying that since a motor vehicle, bus, bicycle and walking connection is part of the agreement for Nishi, and as Union Pacific forbids an under-crossing, there’s no way to build Nishi unless it’s returned to the voters. There’s nothing to mitigate here as nothing can be built for mitigation.
A Cancelled Crossing...
For years a dedicated and new bicycle-pedestrian bridge across the ‘Bypass was promised in the project. In 2020 – when I was still on the Bicycling, Transportation and Street Safety Commission (BTSSC) – the notification that it was dropped some months earlier was only indirectly mentioned in a summary for a BTSSC meeting by the primary liaison for the City of Davis at the time, Brian Abbanat (former City of Davis Senior Planner; now he’s in a similar role for Yolo County and co-presenting Tuesday evening.) A couple of years later when this was mentioned to the other co-presenter, YCTD head Autumn Bernstein, she said it was not funded: I believe that the aggregate truth – to be precise as possible – is that Caltrans dropped it, never told any of the local interested groups about it (e.g. Bike Davis, Davis Bike Club) through their liaison Abbanat and that it wasn’t part of the initial, funded proposal to the Federal Government. Our City, County and State government representatives were silent about this betrayal in our so-called "USA cycling capitol".