Watt Avenue Interchange Open

On Friday I had the opportunity to attend the ribbon cutting for the new Watt Avenue/Highway 50 Interchange (you can read more about the project here). The stretch of Watt Avenue from Fair Oaks Blvd to Kiefer Blvd passes the Interstate 50 and Folsom Blvd. It also crosses the American River and passes a major light rail station. This stretch of Watt Ave has long been one of Sacramento’s busiest corridors and it’s also one of the most complicated, with light rail, buses, bikes, cars, and pedestrians.

The goals of the project were to reduce congestion, install dedicated transit facilities, improve access and increase safety for bicyclists and pedestrians. The project widened the Watt Avenue overpass to add two more through lanes and two high occupancy vehicle lanes, added a bus rapid transit (BRT) and a separated bicycle/pedestrian path passing under the freeway ramps, and, and installed corner extensions to to shorten pedestrian crossing distances and improve pedestrian safety. The traffic signals include special detectors for bicycles, the first of their kind in the Sacramento area and the BRT lanes are the first step in developing BRT along the Watt Ave corridor, among other transit improvements.

I joined the “bicycle parade” riding bicycle/pedestrian path (Ed Cox led the group on his new penny farthing, which you can see in the photo above). When it passes closest to high-speed traffic, the path includes a concrete barrier separating the bicycle/pedestrian path from traffic. You can ride it with no stress or safety concerns. Two-way cycle tracks are often controversial, but, oddly, nobody seems to complain about two-way bicycle/pedestrian paths like this one.

This $22 million project was a long time in the making. The preliminary studies started in 2002. People were pretty excited about this project. Most importantly, it integrates cars, light rail, buses, bicycles, and pedestrians; something we will only see more of in Sacramento. With development picking up and the Arena set to remake Downtown, it can’t come too soon.

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