Nevada City pilot project will make Commercial, York streets one way |

Nevada City pilot project will make Commercial, York streets one way

A pedestrian crosses a portion of Commercial Street in Nevada City in February. A pilot project will make the street one-way.
Elias Funez/

The results of a traffic study are in, and Nevada City is moving forward with a three-month pilot project that will make both Commercial and York streets one way.

Plans for a “community gathering space” of some sort have been discussed for more than a year. Last summer, discussions and surveys looked at partially or completely closing York Street and lower Commercial Street, or simply extending sidewalks, adding a stage or beautifying the street.

Future of Nevada County members presented a project plan for a more pedestrian-friendly Commercial Street to the council on Jan. 23 for preliminary review. Parking was cited as a major concern, and many of those in attendance asked for a full traffic study to be conducted.

The proposal made its way to the city council in February, and council members agreed that a traffic study was needed.

The police and fire departments wanted to look at trying Commercial Street as a one-way street, Assistant City Engineer Bill Falconi told the city council on April 24. Over a period of several weeks, city staff collected traffic data collection for lower Commercial Street in its present configuration as a narrow two-way street with the boardwalk.

Falconi said the amount of vehicle traffic on Commercial Street was “mind-boggling” on the weekends.

There is roughly an equal amount of traffic in each direction with 20-75 vehicles per hour, staff found, with an average of 300 to 800 in each direction every day. Vehicle conflicts exist where it is too narrow to pass, with typical delays of 10-15 seconds or longer. Staff found numerous pedestrians crossing at mid-block (not at crosswalks), with up to 80 pedestrian crossings per hour.

The amount of pedestrian use was far heavier than expected, Falconi said, adding, “The boardwalk sees heavy use. It’s more of a party crowd on the weekend, but a lot of families during the (weekdays.) It’s a very vibrant area.”

Despite the heavy use both by vehicles and pedestrians, Commercial Street is not particularly dangerous, Falconi said. Police Department accident data shows seven vehicle-related accidents in the past three years.

“It has its own traffic calming (pattern),” he said.

The project would make Commercial Street one way from Union Street to Broad Street, and York Street one way from Broad to Commercial.

This will allow time for driver awareness and traffic patterns to change and adjust to the one-way street conversion, staff said. If the council decides the conversion will become permanent, city staff will determine the appropriate level of environmental review pursuant to the California Environmental Quality Act, the staff report noted.

City Manager Catrina Olson said Thursday she did not have the exact date on which the project will start, adding that city staff is working on ordering all of the signage.

Contact reporter Liz Kellar at 530-477-4236 or by email at

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