Ukiah’s Crazy ‘Road Diet’

Anyone visiting downtown Ukiah lately came away surprised. "What the heck is going on?" A major traffic disruption is going on, major traffic disruption that will go on for some time.

Grandly entitled the "Ukiah Streetscape Project," “Phase One" of the project is expected to last until some time in mid-summer, and will include “replacing all water and sewer utilities beneath State Street between the cross streets of Mill Street to Henry Street, and on Perkins and Standley between State Street and School Streets.” 

Phase One also involves “conduit installation for all of the existing overhead utility services including electric, telephone, and cable.” 

Phase Two consists of lane reconfiguration, i.e., narrowing, widened sidewalks, pedestrian bulb-outs, trees, lighting and furnishings, all of which is “anticipated to begin mid- to late summer.”

The project also includes a controversial “road diet” on State Street between Henry Street and Mill Street that will “transform [sic] the existing four-lane cross section into a three-lane cross section with one travel lane in each direction and a two way left-turn lane in the center with on-street parking maintained.”

The prospect that downtown Ukiah’s primary traffic artery will have its through-lanes reduced from four to two has understandably produced a number of complaints over the last few months, which the Ukiah City Council has duly ignored.

“In addition to the road diet,” the City continues, “signal modifications will be made at each of the three signalized [sic] intersections (Standley Street, Perkins Street, and Mill Street) to provide vehicle detection [?], improve coordination and re-orient the signal equipment to support the road diet alignment. This work will also include a pavement overlay, striping, and pavement markings.”

We looked at a number of on-line sources and could not find the schedule of the project (which we also found suspicious). So we emailed Deputy City Manager Shannon Riley who is listed as the project’s contact person:

“Yes, it is definitely underway!,” promptly replied Riley. “The original project plans described the phases as the different geographical areas of the project, but that was prior to including the reconstruction of the underground utilities in the project. Therefore, more recently, we have explained that the project is happening in two phases—the first phase is the underground utility replacement (happening now), which will be followed by the second phase, the surface improvements (sidewalks, asphalt, traffic signals, landscaping, etc.) The utility work will be completed later this summer, and the beginning of the surface improvements will overlap a bit, starting at about the beginning of August. The entire project is expected to be complete next spring/summer, depending on weather.”

So work will continue for at least a year after which, if things work out ok — who knows what they’ll discover when they dig up the underground utilities? — State Street will be half its current traffic capacity downtown. Meanwhile, Ukiah can get used to the reduced number of lanes during the construction — oh, and to ensure congestion, traffic lights are blinking red four-way stops. This move has resulted in “We are seeing far too many people run through these intersections without stopping. As a result, we have temporarily closed the crosswalk at State and Standley for the safety of pedestrians.”

“Through traffic will be maintained on State Street, but will be reduced to two lanes with limitations to parking on South State Street between Church Street and Henry Streets. Additionally, there will be closures to through-traffic on Henry, Standley, and Perkins Streets and intermittent disruptions on Church Street with one-way traffic only.”

Supervisor John McCowen, who owns property in the construction zone, told the Ukiah Daily Journal a few weeks ago that despite the complaints, he saw many benefits to the project, even to the downtown businesses, but first they had to “survive the construction phase, so I hope some thought will be given to: how do we make sure that we’re minimizing the impact to the businesses. If issues arise, who is their point of contact to intercede with the contractor to minimize any issues that could be accommodated?”

The project is among the largest in the county seat in some time. It is being funded by about $2.3 million in “grants,” plus about $1 million of Measure Y (a Ukiah-only road sales tax increment) funds, and will still need about $3.8 million more as of February. Ukiah Public Works Director Tim Eriksen said, “For that we’re planning on using our gas tax funds, about $1.5 million, and the utilities will be paying for prior disturbances of the asphalt,”

In other words, gas tax money that should go to fixing Ukiah’s crumbling downtown streets is being siphoned off to REMOVE two of downtown Ukiah’s busiest street lanes at great cost and huge inconvenience to the businesses in the area.

7 Responses to "Ukiah’s Crazy ‘Road Diet’"

  1. Jack Kanoff   June 17, 2020 at 9:55 am

    There will be a brand new road, and a brand new sidewalk for the decomposing Palace Hotel to come crashing down upon. Then, there will be all sorts of heavy equipment and vehicles that will proceed to tear up this new project to demolish the Palace and haul it away. I swear, some of our officials try to put their shoes on first, and then their socks. And, I wonder what budget the funding will come from in order to do all the necessary repair work that will be needed? Maybe it should come from some of our local official’s exorbitant salaries. And will we end up with a new street, but no businesses left to shop in?
    Probably. State street will end up being a row of pot dispensaries, massage parlors, and tattoo businesses. Just what we need. That’s progress for you. One step forwards. Two steps back. Do the holy poky and spin yourself around.

    Reply
  2. Lef in da cold again   June 17, 2020 at 1:49 pm

    And the great city is forgoing cola raises for employees. Possible furloughs. Hiring freeze. Possible layoffs. And budget cuts to needed entities within the city. Just like the homeless highway built along the dilapidated railroad. Which is now a great spot for litter graffiti old needles and vandalism. Just another project underway.

    Reply
  3. Johnny Keyes   June 17, 2020 at 4:55 pm

    Ahhh, how correct. The Rail Trail. Come visit Ukiah and visit the Rail Trail.

    Play pick up the needles with your kids. See who can find the most without getting pricked. If you get pricked, then you lose,….bigtime.

    And…

    “The entire project is expected to be complete next spring/summer, depending on weather.”

    It really should say “whether”, not “weather”.

    This is whether or not any businesses are still in business.

    Whether or not the project unearths some additional huge expense that will cost zillions more, and delay the project.

    And then, with all due respect to my good friend John, (huge respect)…his comment…

    But first they have to “survive the construction phase”.

    Survive? Please define survive. And until next spring or summer?

    One can survive on bread and water. But, will local businesses be able to live on bread and water until next spring or summer?

    And did you open your business to just survive or to prosper?

    What attempts are being made to help you prosper,….and not just hold on to a life raft, treading water?

    And let me ask you this. Are the correct decisions being made in order to help your business prosper?

    Yes, maybe down the pike in a year or two, you will be in a better position to prosper.

    Question: Will you be out of business with a “for rent” sign in front?

    How long did it take to rent out the “Dig Music” location?

    (I miss Dig and Mike and his wonderful wife)

    And this was pre-virus. The city needs to get off of pot, and view the larger scope of things, or it will lose more and more of everything good. Or is it too late?

    I can see the future. Can you? Do you like what you see? What will you do about it? Well?

    Reply
  4. izzy   June 18, 2020 at 12:17 pm

    All across the land, countless little Neros fiddle while Rome burns.
    Maybe the smoke is obscuring their vision.
    Sometimes, doing nothing is better than just doing anything. And usually less expensive.

    Reply
  5. Pam Partee   June 18, 2020 at 1:10 pm

    Hard not to notice that street resurfacing has stopped, while gas taxes and Measure Y funds are being directed to the downtown Road Diet. Dora, Clara, Ford, and Norton are in horrible shape, to name a few I notice. The street sales and gas taxes were for road repair, but the Road Diet needs $$$. (I hope I am wrong that general street repair has stopped.)

    Reply
  6. John Doe   June 18, 2020 at 5:43 pm

    I don’t live in city limits thankfully but I do work near the construction. I can’t believe the decision making, or lack thereof, from the city. It has been seen when they spend money on a stupid ice rink instead of fixing roads or addressing the homeless situation. It is being seen again where money is being diverted to this stupid project. I feel bad for businesses there. Times are already hard enough, but now it will be even harder for them. I hope people that live in the city limits vote these idiots out.

    Reply
  7. Eas   June 19, 2020 at 9:55 pm

    I did’nt see mention of the dilapidated bridge on Waugh lane that we have been navigating for more than 20 years or the barricaded bridge on Orr Street. We did get a real bridge to no place on E. Perkins Street that doubles as a graffiti board and homeless shelter. Should we say thank you for paving a couple of our streets and failing to raise the manholes? Wondering if those are intintional road hazards to serve as more traffic calming measures?

    It may be time to flush the city toilet and remove the repulsive odor of these non visionary officials that can’t complete a single project. Flushing out the large egos within the city may double as a good stress test of the sewer system we were taken to task on.
    Ever wonder who spent over a million dollars planting trees in the middle of our sidewalks? We don’t need clear visability while entering State Street from driveways. Look at the restricted pedestrian access as a result of the broken tree grates and ridiculous
    bricks placed at the base of the trees. Could’nt place the trees at the back of the sidewalks?
    If you use a cane or walker and travel the sidewalks because the oversized buses struggle to navigate our narrow broken streets you may want to update your contacts with a good ADA attorney as a precautionary measure.
    How much is enough?

    Reply

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