Back-Seat Driver

Is there an intersection out there worse than Watt and Fair Oaks?

The Watt and Fair Oaks intersection, shown here 22 years ago, was the busiest in the region. It’s only gotten more crowded since.
The Watt and Fair Oaks intersection, shown here 22 years ago, was the busiest in the region. It’s only gotten more crowded since. Sacramento Bee Staff Photo

What’s the worst intersection on your daily drive? And what makes it bad?

I ask because I drove the other day through one intersection that has always put me on edge, especially at commute hour, Watt Avenue and Fair Oaks Boulevard, and had a chance to think about what’s wrong there, and to wonder if there are other intersections worse than this one.

One problem is that Watt is one of the few streets in Sacramento County that crosses the American River. So there is a traffic funneling effect. Fair Oaks is a busy commute route as well. It feels like four big armies marching shoulder to shoulder run into each other in a narrow valley.

Watt also lacks adequate right turn lanes allowing cars to head east on Fair Oaks. That’s prompting some drivers to, in effect, commit a crime by cutting through the gas station to avoid the light. That is both trespassing and unsafe driving, a CHP spokesman said.

Are there worse intersections? I hope to do a story in a few weeks about good and bad intersections, and what cities can do to improve these malfunction junctions.

Fair Oaks project slowdowns

Readers complain about the apparent lack of progress at the “streetscape” redesign project on Fair Oaks Boulevard in Carmichael.

In fact, it may be the current holder of the dubious title as longest running traffic project in the county.

The $7 million project, planned since at least 2013, adds sidewalks and other amenities from roughly Landis Avenue to Engle Road next to Carmichael Park. One of the main goals is to give that area back its pedestrian-friendly, downtownish feel. That includes eliminating unsightly overhead wires.

But commuters have long complained about the incessant lane closures. County officials acknowledged to us last week that the project has had slowdowns.

“We ran into an issue with utility companies relocating their poles,” county transportation chief Mike Penrose said. “We had to get them out of the way.”

That’s done now, he said. But the heavy winter rains have given way to relatively heavy spring rains, slowing down this and many other construction projects.

Expect street work and lane closures for another couple of months. Finish date is now set for June.

Paddle wheeling on the river

Sacramento has an impressive historical paddleboat on the Sacramento River. It wants a second one so residents can go for evening dinner cruises and late-night party runs up and down the river. Unfortunately, actual seaworthy historic boats are hard to find.

The city had given Hornblower Yachts, a national boat tours company, until the beginning of this month to make good on a contract deal with the city of Sacramento to bring a historical boat to Old Sacramento. Hornblower’s Northern California GM Jill Benson said she’s looked at boats in Chicago and Georgia, but usable and available boats are rare.

Instead, for now, Hornblower has agreed to launch two new excursions on the river in the coming weeks. Alive After Five, a happy hour cruise suitable for families, and Rock the Yacht, a later hours excursion for adults.

City officials say they now have the right to contract with a different boat tour company, but are holding off, pleased that Hornblower is upping its game in Sacramento, and hoping to someday soon see another historical boat docked in Old Sac.