Highway 49 safety group starts new strategy
A collection of citizens concerned about traffic safety on Highway 49 between Auburn and Grass Valley are hoping a renewed campaign aimed at state representatives and transportation officials will help fund needed safety improvement measures.
Last week, dozens of advocates associated with the Fix49 campaign sent scores of email blasts to officials from the California Department of Transportation, California Highway Patrol and elected representatives’ staff, urging them to allocate more money to make that stretch of highway safer.
The Fix49 group, which started three years ago as part of a school project, is one of a handful of continued community efforts to increase safety measures on the highway in the last 15 years. The group wants the highway to be widened to include two lanes on each side, add roundabouts and install a median center divider.
While Caltrans has agreed that those additions would be helpful, it lacks the funding to make it happen.
According to Nevada County Transportation Commission Executive Director Dan Landon, Nevada County has control of about $4 million in state funding each year. About $3 million is already slated to widen the highway between La Barr Meadows Road and McKnight Way.
“The state has a limited amount of money,” Landon said. “But that limited amount seems like an awful lot here in Nevada County.”
Caltrans is now developing a new traffic safety assessment and roadside audit that will help determine what measures would be best to implement on the highway, but even with overwhelming public backing for what the group proposes, they would still need more funding to move forward.
While other projects, like on Highway 174, have benefited from additional funding due to safety concerns, Highway 49 has not met the threshold to warrant safety funding.
“Fortunately, Highway 49 hasn’t risen to that high of a rate (of collisions) in terms of safety funding,” Landon said.
While it’s unclear how much affect the campaign can ultimately have to influence funding, Landon supports the effort.
“We definitely are in sympathy with the citizens and I really do appreciate that fact that they’re reaching out and it can only help,” Landon said. “Particularly as it relates now to the heightened awareness we have of the need for emergency ingress and egress. It’s going to be overwhelmed just like Paradise was, should we get into that some kind of catastrophic event. So let’s all keep pushing for it.”
To contact Staff Writer John Orona, email firstname.lastname@example.org or call 530-477-4229.
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