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The year-long planning stage for developing changes to a problematic 1.8-mile stretch of Old Auburn Road in Citrus Heights is nearing completion, with a final vote from the City Council slated for March 26.
Known as the Old Auburn Road Complete Streets plan, the term “complete street” refers to a modern approach to transportation design that seeks to provide safe travel for drivers, as well as pedestrians, bicyclists and transit riders.
An update on the planning stage was presented last month during a City Council study session where plans focused on continuous single lanes of traffic in each direction, with a dedicated center turn lane, for the stretch of Old Auburn from Sylvan Corners to just beyond the intersection of Fair Oaks Boulevard.
Plans also showed the construction of eight-foot sidewalks along both sides of Old Auburn from Mariposa Avenue to Sunrise Boulevard, with a four-foot planting buffer to separate pedestrians from vehicle and bicycle traffic. A map presented during the meeting also shows six to seven-foot-wide bike lanes on the roadway.
The city’s consultant, Fehr & Peers, said narrower sections of the roadway would need to be widened to accommodate the bike lanes, planting buffer and wider sidewalks. The changes are intended to reduce the number of collisions and vehicle speeds, improve walking, biking, and travel across Old Auburn Road, and reduce cut-through traffic.
Raised vertical curbs would also be installed throughout, which drew some opposition from Councilman Bret Daniels. The city’s consultant said the curbs would help pedestrians feel more safe, while Daniels said he didn’t like the idea of anything near the roadway that could present a safety hazard for drivers.
The most controversial aspect of the plan being drafted regards the section of Old Auburn nearest Fair Oaks Boulevard, which is an intersection well-known for repeated vehicle collisions with planter boxes as drivers make left-hand turns onto Old Auburn Road.
See full slide presentation from the Feb. 27 study session: click here
During last month’s study session, the City Council gave general direction for staff to pursue reducing lanes down to one in each direction for the stretch of Old Auburn Road between Antelope Road and Fair Oaks Boulevard. Fehr & Peers said the lane reduction would increase safety but also increase travel times during peak morning commutes by 50%.
The city has already implemented some preliminary changes at the Fair Oaks Boulevard intersection to avoid further collisions, including reducing turn lanes down to one lane and recently installing a flashing 15 mile-per-hour sign in advance of the turn. Additional changes being considered include “squaring up” the angled intersection and adding pavement treatments to the roadway to allow for more traction.
Using “big data” purchased from a vendor, scrubbed of any personally identifiable information, Fehr & Peers said it was able to acquire data on how Old Auburn is actually being used. Data showed about 20 percent of morning commutes pass through Citrus Heights and 16 percent in the evening. Roughly half the trips in both morning and evening start in Citrus Heights.
During a controversial “road diet” experiment last year that replaced one westbound lane of Old Auburn Road with a bike lane, Fehr & Peers reported an 11% drop in traffic passing through the area. The consultant said it wasn’t known which alternate route those drivers took, but hoped they opted to take Interstate 80 or another thoroughfare.
Councilman Daniels said he was concerned with “unintended consequences” of a permanent lane reduction on Old Auburn, noting that drivers could have been cutting through residential streets to avoid the area during the road diet experiment.
Around 19,000 vehicles travel along Old Auburn Road each day, according to the city’s average daily traffic data for the stretch of road between Sylvan Corners and Mariposa Avenue. That has earned that section of Old Auburn Road a “Level of Service” rating of “F,” which is the worst operating conditions possible on the scale of A-F.
Councilwoman Jeannie Bruins said the city previously decided to not not make Old Auburn Road a thoroughfare, fitting with the city’s current intention to discourage cut-through traffic on Old Auburn.
Other portions of Old Auburn Road have better ratings, with the section of roadway near Wachtel Way earning a “C” grade. City traffic data shows a much lower average daily traffic count of 13,850 between Fair Oaks Boulevard and the northern city limits.
Data from the city shows a total of 78 injury collisions were reported along Old Auburn Road from 2013 to 2017, three of which were fatal. Eight involved a bicycle and six involved a pedestrian.
All three fatal collisions occurred at the intersection of Old Auburn Road and Sunrise Boulevard, which also has been the location of the majority of all injury collisions along Old Auburn Road. Thirty-eight percent of the collisions were caused by unsafe speeds, and 51 percent were rear-end collisions.
A presentation about the plan for Old Auburn Road was also presented to the Planning Commission last month, where the city’s consultant said an inquiry was made about the potential for a roundabout at Mariposa Avenue and Old Auburn Road. The consultant briefly addressed the idea during the City Council meeting, noting his concern about “traffic flow issues with adjacent signals that may not work well.”
Planning Commission Chairman Tim Schaefer said the consultant was also asked about data on current bicycle usage along the corridor during the presentation to the commission, but no data was presented during either meeting.
The plan for Old Auburn Road came after the City Council accepted a $190,000 grant from Caltrans in 2018 to develop a complete streets plan for Old Auburn Road. The council subsequently awarded a $195,850 contract to Fehr & Peers for professional services to begin development of the plan, which included “a robust community engagement process, evaluation of existing conditions and deficiencies to define community based solutions, address concerns, increase safety and transform Old Auburn Road into a Complete Street.”
Two community meetings and a survey were held last year to gather public input during the planning process. The survey found the primary concern was “to have less traffic congestion” on Old Auburn Road.
The city is currently finalizing the Old Auburn Road Complete Streets plan, which will then come before the City Council for a vote on March 26. If approved, grant funding would then be sought before construction could begin.
Want to share your thoughts on roadway changes being considered? Click here to submit a letter to the editor. Contact information for City Council members is also posted online, and the entire council can be emailed together at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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