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During the Thanksgiving holiday weekend, several collisions occurred at the Fair Oaks/Old Auburn intersection. A review of these collisions, and review of collision reports for crashes that occurred over the past several years, indicates that the large majority of crashes are occurring from cars using the outside left turn lane from Fair Oaks onto Old Auburn Road. Therefore, in order to increase traffic safety and reduce crashes into the planters, the outside left turn lane has been closed, and will remain closed, until the Near Term Improvements can be installed.
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Since incorporation, the City has routinely received concerns from residents regarding safety along Old Auburn Road. Concerns include excessive vehicle speeds, lack of pedestrian and bicycle infrastructure, safe crossings, increased congestion and a history of collisions.
In 2011, the city adopted a Complete Streets standard (see Question 3 for info on Complete Streets) for all roadways in the community. This policy is intended to provide safe movement for all roadway users including people walking, riding a bicycle, or driving a car.
In 2016, as part of the Pedestrian Master Plan, the city surveyed residents about their concerns related to walking within the city. Approximately 69% of survey respondents indicated they would like to see pedestrian improvements in their neighborhood. 62% of respondents indicated they would walk more if there were better sidewalks and crosswalks. In addition, over 50% of respondents did not feel safe from cars while walking.
When the city adopted the Pedestrian Master Plan, the Old Auburn Road corridor was identified as a Focus Area due to the importance of the corridor, the lack of infrastructure, and the number of collisions.
The focus area identified a variety of safety concerns for pedestrians and vehicles along this corridor that needed to be addressed in more detail. The Pedestrian Master Plan identified a need for wider separated sidewalks as well as a variety of other safety improvements; however, acknowledged, a more robust design and planning effort was necessary.
The study evaluates the portion of Old Auburn Road between Sylvan Corners (Auburn/Sylvan/Old Auburn intersection) and Garry Oak Dr (where the current Multi-Use pathway ends, just east of Fair Oaks Blvd.) A map highlighting the study limits is located on the project website.
A “complete street” is a transportation design and operation philosophy that intends streets to be safe, convenient and comfortable for all users, regardless of age, ability, or how one feels while traveling. Complete streets can include, but are not limited to, sidewalks, bike lanes, bus pull-outs, and traffic calming measures such as center medians and street trees.
The benefits of complete street elements being considered include:
Separated Bikeways reduce risk of injury to cyclists by 50% and have been proven to decrease vehicle speeds.
Reducing travel lanes has been shown to decrease vehicle speeds and reduce injury collisions by over 60%.
Separated sidewalks promote an active lifestyle, increase neighborhood walkability and have been shown to prevent up to 88% of crashes related to walking along a roadway.
See the Open House exhibit board for more information.
Throughout the development of the Pedestrian Master Plan and Bikeway Master Plan, those who participated in or commented on the plans routinely indicated their largest concern was related to the lack of physical separation from high volume and high speed traffic. Respondents in these efforts typically felt that a physical separation (landscape planter, curb, etc.) was necessary to improve their comfort level.
Fifty-nine percent of residents surveyed during the development of the City’s Pedestrian Master Plan indicated they are willing to use active transportation; however they need improvements (including separation from roadways, safe crossings and connectivity to key destinations).
Congestion during the morning and afternoon commute on the freeways and major arterials like Sunrise Boulevard has caused traffic to spill onto neighborhood streets, especially with the increased use of cellphone navigation applications (i.e. Waze, Google Maps, etc.) Smart phone navigation applications will direct traffic onto roadways based on minimal travel time, even to save a minute or less, regardless of the roadway type. Widening local roadways, like Old Auburn Road, may induce additional commute traffic as highlighted on the “Who is Using Old Auburn Road?” Exhibit Board where 20% - 25% of Old Auburn Road's existing commute traffic uses the roadway as a cut through.
The proposed improvements need to be a balance between accommodating local access and not inducing additional cut-through traffic.
The lane reduction creates a cost effective way to increase the facilities for safer walking and biking which has the potential to shift shorter local trips to a more active mode, such as allowing kids to walk to school, thus reducing the number of cars trips.
The planters were installed in 2009 after receiving a number of complaints from residents along the north side of Old Auburn Rd regarding out of control vehicles that had crashed through their rear-yard fences. Planters were chosen as they can safely absorb the impact of a vehicle while protecting pedestrians on the sidewalk and the adjacent residential properties. In addition, the planter block materials are readily available and can be assembled/re-assembled by the city’s landscape personnel, minimizing maintenance costs and response times for any repairs.
Concrete barriers and metal-beam guardrails were considered. However, both of these barrier types are intended to protect against side-angle impacts. The planters can safely absorb the impact of head-on collisions, whereas other options do not absorb impact and may cause serious injury to the vehicle drivers. In addition, concrete or metal-beam barriers require costly crash cushion devices at the exposed blunt ends to further protect drivers from severe injury. The planter barriers were chosen for three primary reasons:
Striping changes to increase the angle of the northbound left turn were implemented in October 2019. These changes include realigning the eastbound lane on Old Auburn Road to allow a broader turn radius from northbound Fair Oaks Boulevard. Any additional changes to realign the roadways to intersect at 90 degrees will require reconstruction of the entire intersection and a portion of Fair Oaks Boulevard. Realignment would also require purchase of property from one or more privately owned parcels. For these reasons, it is not feasible to realign the intersection any more than what has already been done at this time.
This concept was tested during the 9-day roadway demonstration project in October. In addition, review of the planter crashes indicates that the large majority of crashes occur from vehicles using the outside left turn lane from Fair Oaks Blvd onto Old Auburn Road. A plan for Near Term Improvements has been developed which includes making this lane change permanent. The Near Term Improvements include:
These updates will be installed as soon as weather permits.
Reducing collisions is primarily handled in three ways: Enforcement, Engineering and Education. The Police Department does patrol and conduct enforcement in this area. However, enforcement is only one way to reduce collisions. Each location must be studied to determine the best outcome. Police and engineers have come together to determine that enforcement is important in this area but engineering changes are the best long term solution.
The current concept is to have one travel lane in each direction with a center two-way left turn lane for the entirety of the corridor. More detail can be seen on Concept Design Map 1 and Map 2, presented at Community Open House #2.
The temporary changes were implemented as part of the community engagement effort associated with this planning project. Typically, concepts are only developed and presented on paper and do not provide a way for residents and community members to see the concepts in the field. By implementing the changes temporarily, all roadway users gain a first-hand experience of the proposed concept, also providing opportunity to engage members of the community who may otherwise not have known about the project.
Further, implementing the changes in the field for a one-week period allowed staff to observe how the proposed concept would affect a critical intersection and to collect traffic data to further analyze the potential changes.
For city streets, traffic congestion is typically caused by operations at major intersections and not due to the number of lanes in between. As part of any improvements on Old Auburn Road, infrastructure will be installed to allow signal timing improvements and signal coordination which will help traffic flow through intersections on Old Auburn Road more efficiently. Currently, this infrastructure is lacking and signal coordination is not possible on Old Auburn Road. The current concept also proposes to add two-way left turn lanes where they do not exist today, increasing safety for left turning vehicles and allowing them to wait outside of the travel lane. Additionally, the lane reduction may reduce the amount of cut-through traffic using the corridor during peak commute times as a bypass for Interstate 80.
There is potential for increased cut-through traffic on neighborhood streets with the Plan implementation. However, during the demonstration project in October, the amount of traffic measured on Oak Avenue largely remained the same as before the demonstration project was implemented. See the Demonstration Project Exhibit Board for more information. If the one lane roadway configuration is implemented, city staff will continue to monitor neighborhood traffic issues and can address potential cut-through traffic with additional traffic calming or intersection modifications.
City staff is working with the project consultant to review all comments and feedback received. A final recommendation and Plan will be presented to the Citrus Heights Planning Commission and City Council in late February.
We anticipate the Plan to be complete by end of February 2020. Currently, there is no funding identified to design or construct the recommendations that are developed as part of the Complete Streets Plan. However, once complete, the concepts will be used to seek grant funding for the next phases of the corridor improvements. It is unlikely that the entire corridor will be constructed at one time, and improvements will likely be phased.