Back-Seat Driver

Readers ask: What’s that red pavement on Watt Avenue?

Sacramento officials want to build a streetcar on rails downtown, like the Portland trolley seen here. But a Bee reader asks: Why tear up the streets for an old-school transit style that may not work?
Sacramento officials want to build a streetcar on rails downtown, like the Portland trolley seen here. But a Bee reader asks: Why tear up the streets for an old-school transit style that may not work? Seattle Times file

Welcome to “What the Heck’s That About?,” the transportation column where reader questions receive satisfactory responses – or your money back.

Reader Susie Miller wants to know what that red-colored pavement on Watt Avenue is about.

It’s there to mark where the county’s new express bus-only lane on Watt crosses car traffic at Folsom Boulevard and Highway 50. The red pavement, plus electronic red X signs overhead, plus some bus-only signs, are there because county planners don’t want some driver accidentally pulling into the narrow lane and coming face to face with a bus. That sort of puts the brakes on the express idea. So far, there are no reports of cars straying in there. But police and fire officials say they intend to use it. “We didn’t build it for them, but they need to do what they need to do to provide emergency services.” county transportation official Pat Carpenter said. It’s the first “bus only” lane in Sacramento. “It’ll be an interesting test case,” Carpenter said.

Peter Hays is perplexed by the plan to reintroduce rail streetcars downtown. “The streets have to be torn up, overhead wires have to be installed, and if it fails commercially, the street has to be torn up again to remove the tracks. Why not bus trolleys?”

Short answer, advocates say: Trolleys are cool. Buses are not. Kirk Trost, a transportation expert helping oversee the project, says studies show tracks give people, including tourists, confidence to ride. They can tell where the trolley is heading. “Fixed rail projects drive economic investment. (Businesses) will invest money on the knowledge that, once those rails go in, they know (the trolley) will always be there. It’s known as a transit tool that activates development in urban cores.” (Besides, Portland has one, and Sacramento, let’s just say it, has Portland envy.)

Ken Carpenter vents about drivers who leave a huge gap between them and the car ahead at traffic lights. It’s caused him to miss the green light. “Grrrr,” he wrote.

A number of drivers tell us they leave enough space to give them room to move forward suddenly or pull out of the way to avoid getting rear-ended, a growing fear in these days of distracted drivers. And, maybe some drivers are busy texting and lose track of what’s going on around them. (We’ve all seen drivers, with heads down, who don’t budge even though the light just turned green.) Driving instructors say: Leave enough room so you can see the bumper and tires of the car ahead of you.

Doug Konovaloff wants to know: “Are we ever going to see the HOV lanes completed from Watt Ave. through downtown on Highway 50?”

Caltrans is working on it – slowly – but doesn’t have funding for it yet. Sacramento city officials aren’t keen on it because of extra traffic it would bring to central city neighborhoods. Caltrans is focused first on adding carpool lanes on Interstate 5 through south Sacramento. That project won’t be finished, though, until 2021!

Call The Bee’s Tony Bizjak, (916) 321-1059.

  Comments