Looking east into the intersection The 4-way intersection of Olive Drive and Richards Boulevard is widely considered the most inconvenient, inefficient, and generally heinous intersection in Davis.

  • So is the worst intersection only on the olive drive side, or does it include the 1st and E part as well? - arlen
  • I think it should include both, and maybe even the On-Ramp of Doom on Interstate 80 at Richards.The Labster

To be fair to the planners, there are a number of reasons to leave it the way it is. First, anybody who is holding onto the concept of Davis as a "small town forever", it provides a way to limit traffic into downtown. That also means that a change to this intersection will affect downtown's traffic patterns, requiring significant changes and likely increasing pedestrian and biker accidents.

One of the most compelling "hidden" aspects that keep the intersection from being expanded is the fact that the Richards underpass is the last remaining rail span bridge (look up when you go through it). Once, hundreds of these bridges gave access to the western half of the country and were common sights. Now this last one remains, having originally allowed the Lincoln Highway to pass underneath the railway.

Also see The Worst Intersection on Campus.

The first thing when entering Davis is a demand that some people MUST turn right. Of course, it is accompanied by a diagram that appears to give notice that there are piercings and body jewelry ahead.

Description

Overhead View

Get this full size and use it to sketch out your solution to the problem

Size

One lane each way, with lines sometimes stretching several blocks in each direction

Features

  • Interstate 80 dumps out onto Richards one block away
  • South Davis residents must all funnel through to reach UCD or downtown
  • In-N-Out, Redrum Burger and gas station attract more traffic
  • Bridge for train makes expansion of Richards unfeasible -I heard it had something to do with the Boy Scout Cabin
  • Incline of overpass makes bikes an unattractive alternative
  • Close, skewed intersection of Richards with First and E streets disorients drivers
  • Bizarre merging of I-80 offramp with eastbound Richards
  • No left-turn signal for drivers on Olive
  • New apartment complexes continually added along Olive
  • Offramp from I-80 to far end of Olive, but no corresponding onramp
  • No other outlet from Olive
  • Traffic lights are set to a timer, not a sensor, guaranteeing a wait at any hour
  • With the frequent pedestrians, timer allows roughly 4 cars on Olive to turn left
  • Unitrans W Bus Line stops right at the intersection

Events

  • Gridlock
  • Sometimes the train goes by overhead
  • In evening, headlights gleam like strings of Christmas lights
  • In daytime, glare from windshields resembles tinsel from a distance
  • If you are turning left from Olive during the day, you will wait roughly 12 minutes
  • If a vehicle breaks down, or a truck does not have enough clearance to make it under the train bridge, you will be stuck for hours
  • The Davis Police Department occasionally has DUI checkpoints here, stopping every car to see if the people are drunk.
  • Prone to flooding. When I was a student in Davis there were at least two times when the tunnel under the railroad tracks flooded, causing traffic to backup and only the people with tall vehicles (trucks, etc.) could go through. I tried once...in my Ford Escort (college car)- came up midway to my door and I was lucky it didn't completely kill my car!

Truly a gem of urban planning.

Tips to avoid this intersection

By Bike

By Car

See also

Proposed Solutions

Roundabout

David Zetland cites this Wiki entry in his paper Roundabouts in Davis: A Comprehensive Policy Analysis, and proposes that a roundabout in place of the current form of the intersection would "improve the experience of commuters and non-commuters alike."

-There's an Environmental Impact Report the city commissioned in 1996 on this in the Shields Library. DOC-STA CA/DAV C6 R52

Bike and Pedestrian Bridge

Mitagating solution, but needs willingness to spend the money: This is the worse intersection in the city. Lets push the city council to build a bridge across Richards for bikes and pedestrians, exclusively. Then disallow bikes and pedestrians from crossing either Olive or Richards at that intersection. The bridge, and the trail leading up to it from either side, will have a zero grade from one side to the other and will easily connect to other bike trails and sidewalks. We can build it parallel to the existing Union Pacific rail bridge without disturbing it. We would need to take some of the Design House's parking lot, just along the edge, but could compensate them with some of the town's property behind the Design House. I am quite sure the town owns the property on the other side of Richards that is use to pile up old cars. I encourage all of you to take a look at this area and see what I'm talking about. It's pedestrian and bike traffic, which I respect more than auto traffic, that is the biggest factor making this intersection a nightmare. So lets take them out of the equation with a safe and attractive alternative. Sure it will cost, but federal money floods into this town all the time. Lets use some of it for this. If you agree, start making noise about this in the paper and at the City Council meetings. Wayne Schiller

  • Several years ago the Davis City Council voted on whether or not to expand the tunnel and the interesection so it would be more pedestrian and bike friendly. Unfortunately, they believe the tunnel has historical value and should not be changed. So the next time you almsot die trying to cross the intersection just remember that Davis history is worth more than you. It was meant as a joke, but it is also a half truth. If there is money to be made out of destroying history the Davis City Council does not have a problem with it. A few years before the underpass vote, the council pushed the Borders shopping area....well in building the Borders area and the nearby housing development an ancient Indian village site had to be covered up. So I guess I will have to revise my statement in that City of Davis history is worth more than Native American history. Also, several years ago downtown residents wanted to fill in the many pothalls that dot the alleyways in central Davis. Residents were getting injured walking and their cars were getting beat up. Well the Council thought the potholes were historical, so they have never been covered up. JimSchwab

Nice bit of revisionist history here, but not true unfortunately. The widening of Richards was not rejected by the city council, it was rejected by votes of the people: Three Times. The most recent came after the city council voted to widen the intersection despite the previous two votes against doing so. In their we-know-what's-good-for-you arrogance, the council went forward with the atrocious reconstruction of the south side of the intersection as though the widening would occur. When it was rejected by yet another overwhelming vote, we were stuck with a stupid traffic pattern that simply does not work.

There were lots of good reasons for not widening Richards. The historical significance of the railroad bridge is a relatively minor one. The primary reason is that downtown Davis cannot handle the increased traffic flow that would result. Every traffic study that was done was clear on this point.


That is so true, but my above bridge proposal doesn't even have to touch the UP bridge, it will just run parallel to the historic bridge. I like the idea of preserving history, but not at the expense of safety or urban sprawl. Wayne Schiller

If the bridge runs parrell to the tracks, how do you get across the tracks? Can you sketch this? I'm confused. - arlen

The bridge doesn't cross the tracks it only crosses over Richards in the same direction as the rail bridge does. To cross the tracks one would follow the new path from the new bridge on the south side (the NAPA Auto parts side) of Richards back towards the Olive Richards intersection that would connect with the existing bike path that goes under the tracks into downtown. Others could use the same new path on the south side to go east on East Olive and unto the existing bike paths that runs to campus behind Borders, or towards south Davis. The bridge is constructed on the south side of the rail bridge. Is that clear? I wouldn't know how to submit a sketch here. Wayne Schiller

Is this what you mean Wayne?-MattJojola

YES, THAT'S EXACTLY WHAT I MEAN! Very good, Matt. Hey everyone, doesn't it make sense? Wayne Schiller

Wouldn't the money be better spent installing a bike crossing (or even a full crossing) at the L and 2nd Garden and improving the Olive Richards intersection? The intersection improvements could include a left hand turn lane off olive headed downtown that would separate out a portion of the traffic that makes riding a bike westbound on Olive through the intersection so funky. Fixing the intersection would also improve things for bikes traveling on Richards.JasonAller

Good rendition Matt! Waynes' idea was recommended to the Planning Commission and the City Council two years ago. However, the search through university civil engineering courses for a solution are still conducted. None of the student groups have come up with this idea yet! The problem with putting a bike/pedestrian crossing at the L & 2nd St crossing is that the city has to purchase an unused railroad crossing arm from another site somewhere in California. UP doesn't just give these out willy-nilly. The city currently owns the empty property in front of NAPA Auto parts and the other side behind Design House. Making the idea above a fabulous solution! Since UP agreed to that undercrossing for the new bike/ped path on the West Olive Dr. side, why wouldn't they be amenable to a bike crossing next to the tracks???!!! Lastly, I don't agree with this:

"...just remember that Davis history is worth more than you." KellyT

I have informally studied this intersection for about three years and have concluded that the two main problems areas are turning left off of Olive onto Richards south and the back up under the tunnel. Turning left onto Ruchards north, into downtown, hasn't been that big of a problem because not that many cars come from Olive east. I truly believe that it's just a bad place to mix cars and bikes/pedestrians. Many cities in the Bay Area have prohibited pedestrians from certain problem intersections. I also think if bikes ride with cars, instead of using the cross walks, that would help, and we certainly should never prohibit bikes from the roads if they use them properly. I am not against a bike crossing at L, but fat chance getting UP to agree. Wayne Schiller

Jason, that's a beautiful aerial photograph you got there (from where)? I compared it with the printed UC Davis campus map, and one can see significant distortions in their map. For instance, they show Richards as being straight, Olive without the curve, and the Putah Creek Bicycle Undercrossing as being 3 blocks long! —SteveDavison

I just wanted to tell of my history with this intersection. Being new to Davis and seeing that this intersection was busy, I decided to actually follow the pedestrian walk signs on my way back from In-N-Out. No sooner did I get into the opposite lane (I did check for traffic, mind you) did I come about six inches from being run over by some car going what felt like 40mph. I vote for the pedestrian bridge (or at least let me walk on the other side of the road under the bridge). —TimMonk

Speaking of when trucks get stuck, this happened to me one summer day while riding the W line back from work. Normally this wouldn't be so bad, but I was already late for my sister's high school graduation in Roseville and it also happened to be about 100 degrees outside. I ended up having to walk all of the way from Borders to Avalon, but not before snapping this:

    LaineWalkerAvina

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    2008-02-23 16:31:14   I don't know much about traffic controls and stuff, but wouldn't making the light for cars headed West on Olive stay green a little longer fix a lot of problems? Even like 10 seconds longer would let more cars through. When pedestrians are crossing sometimes only 1 car can get through, which makes more cars back up. People from In-N-Out and Shell can't get out, but try anyway which tends to block Eastbound traffic, which means more cars backed up going North on Richards. That in turn makes exiting In-N-Out / Shell from the Western entrance/exit seem impossible (at least to me) and makes more cars come out on Olive drive, which kinda starts the problem over from the beginning. —BradBenedict


    2008-11-15 16:43:45   Almost every day at noon, on Saturdays and general days with more heavy traffic getting off the Freeway from Olive I am blocked from getting out of my residence by an almost mile long back up of rude impatient drivers. People exit the freeway onto Olive so they can drive into Downtown, and get backed up on the worlds most obnoxious light. Both sides are always backed up, but the left turn lane more so than the right. Neither has enough time to clear traffic manageably. IT'S THE TOWN JOKE!

    And RATHER than spend a little money to re-time the lights to make the Olive drive thru-traffic longer, they hire an old crossing guard to make sure that NO CARS can get through, and we're screwed all the way down to Olive Drive Market.

    When I am coming into my residence I cannot even enter, but have to wait, blocking traffic behind me because of the ridiculous back-up of cars. Not to mention the fact that there is almost NO WHERE to u-turn down Olive Drive.

    Let me also point out that if a heavy influx of traffic INTO downtown were such a problem, then why can't they make the Olive Drive thru traffic light LONGER to prevent it. There have only been a FEW very occasional times when Richards became backed up going into Downtown. We are almost always backed up here on Olive. It makes me so angry. And as much as it is unfair, it makes me hate large crowds of pedestrians and people who walk their bikes. If we had any time at all to turn left none of this would be a problem. 75% of the time I am FORCED to drive through downtown rather than take the freeway around because the left turn is so f-ing backed up.

    Fire the Davis city planners. PLEASE! —CarrieBishop


    2009-10-23 03:47:10   It seems like if they just added a green arrow for the Olive traffic, things would be so much nicer. —sonictrance


    2011-08-08 10:54:26   I want to add my rant here as well. I think many of the comments here already prove my point, so forgive me if this seems redundant: There have been numerous attempts over the years to improve this horrendous intersection (specifically, the "subway" underpass into downtown), that hasn't changed since 1917. Yes, you read that right: 1917. As in almost 100 years ago [WWW]http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Davis,_California. The main artery into downtown has not changed since the population of Davis was less than 1,000. The last attempt (I believe), was done in the mid-90's. A very tasteful, well crafted expansion was proposed (my opinion of course), and put on the ballot. If failed, due to the locals who played the population with scare tactics, spouting asinine statements such as "big rigs will start coming downtown!" "traffic will increase downtown!" "It'll be like a local freeway!" So, the measure failed. Sound familiar? Voters being frightened off by a few citizens drumming up questionable "facts" to scare off the populace? See Covell Village. Meanwhile, the facts remain that emergency vehicles could potentially not get through this bottleneck if/when it floods in the winter (this has happened). During peak traffic hours, anyone who's ever tried to get through this intersection can be stuck for 10 minutes or more. The bike tunnel is great, but in my humble opinion, this continues to be the single worst traffic spot in the whole city. The premise of "slowing people down" through the intersection by creating gridlock just isn't the right way to do things. I would also qualify my remarks by saying I am completely for most every conceivable effort to retain anything linking Davis to it's history. However, to me, the argument against expanding this intersection rings more of a misplaced perspective on city history (see "historic potholes": [WWW]http://cityofdavis.org/cdd/cultural/30years/chapt10.cfm) than of a valued piece of our past. I realize now that the site has been cited in the National Register of Historic Places ([WWW]http://www.cr.nps.gov/nr/), there is little chance of it ever being "tampered with" ([WWW]http://cityofdavis.org/bicycles/tour.cfm). This being said, I still truly believe that, done tastefully, CORRECTLY, that there could be a site that fits the city in both appearance and function. I sincerely invite any discussion/opposition to any of the above. —OldDavis73