City to look at level of service
Grass Valley City Council members are considering a resolution that would allow more traffic at the intersection of East Main Street, Idaho-Maryland Road and the Golden Center Freeway.
As a result, the local battle over traffic is moving into highly technical legal terrain.
The debate starts with the city’s General Plan, which was adopted in 1999.
The General Plan is the city’s roadmap for growth. It defines different levels of service on the city’s roads and intersections.
The General Plan says the city wants to keep traffic on roads and intersections flowing at least at a “D” level during peak hours. Measurements for the peak hour are taken on weekdays from 4 p.m. to 6 p.m.
Traffic typically backs up at that time, pushing the intersection into the “F” category for level of service. The intersection is considered to be “failing.”
“In no case should the city plan for worse than LOS “E” at any intersection,” the General Plan states.
That hung up new developments that would have put new traffic into the intersection.
So in 2002, the City Council adopted a rule that allows new developments to go into that area even though the intersection already operates at the “F” level during the rush hour. The “2-second rule” says a new development can go in, as long as its traffic impact adds less than 2 seconds to the wait time at the intersection.
But as capacity in the intersection has filled up, even smaller projects have started to trigger the 2-second rule, causing them delays and higher costs.
On Jan. 24, the City Council revised its traffic policy to allow new developments to ignore the 2-second rule if a solution to the problem is feasible and is planned for the near future – a solution such as the single-lane roundabout.
On Feb. 14, the council took up a resolution that would temporarily exempt development affecting the intersection from both the level of service rule and the 2-second rule. The exemption would be reviewed every three years.
The city is using policy 7-CI of the General Plan to support that change.
On March 14, lawyer Willliam W. Abbott will explain why he believes the city is on solid legal ground for using that policy to make the exemption. At issue is whether the city can rely on the environmental impact report it did for its General Plan to allow the increased traffic at that intersection.
Opponents to the change argue that policy 7-CI cannot be used to exempt the intersection from the traffic policy. To allow more traffic at the intersection, the city should do a new environmental impact report, according to Thomas P. Infusino, a Pine Grove land use lawyer retained by Citizens Concerned About Traffic to review the issue.
The City should go back to the policy it adopted on Jan. 24, opponents said.
To contact staff writer Trina Kleist, e-mail trinak@theunion .com or call 477-4231.
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