In response to complaints about speeding and motor vehicle crashes, the City of Chico engaged Siegman & Associates and Heritage Partners to redesign Vallombrosa Avenue. The project’s goal was to ensure safety for all, while preserving the street’s scenic character. The corridor, stretching from Manzanita to Arbutus Avenues, is flanked on the northwest by homes and on the southeast by the towering oaks of Bidwell Park.
To engage the public, the team conducted a four-day design charrette. In walking audits, a hands-on design workshop, and one-on-one interviews, the team worked with neighborhood leaders, city staff, and the public at large to propose a new plan and design standards.
The proposed design adds bicycle lanes and walkways to improve safety and comfort. To minimize the addition of pavement, the design replaces overly-wide travel lanes with slender ones. Lanes and paths meander as necessary to preserve significant heritage oaks. At midblock entries to Bidwell Park, marked crosswalks, reinforced by traffic-calming chicanes, serve a dual purpose: slowing speeders and providing safe, comfortable crossings. Modified T-intersections calm traffic at several smaller intersections.
At Manzanita and Vallombrosa, the plan recommended a low-speed modern roundabout to replace a heavily congested all-way stop, where traffic sometimes backed up for 20 minutes or more.
The proposed roundabout was completed in 2009. The roundabout, paired with two others along Manzanita Avenue, allowed the city to cancel plans to widen Manzanita from two lanes to four lanes through Bidwell Park. The multimillion-dollar widening would have required expanding the street’s right-of-way through the park, costly relocation of a line of power poles abutting the road, signalizing intersections, and cutting down a total of 105 trees.
Today, traffic flows smoothly through the new roundabout. In addition to saving the city between $1 million and $2 million in construction costs, the project has succeeded in improving safety, while preserving the scenic beauty of the corridor.
Renderings courtesy of R. John Anderson