Dorsey Drive interchange funding still a top priority
If the Dorsey Drive interchange project – now estimated to cost $34 million – isn’t fully funded in two to three years, nearly $5.2 million in state funds could go toward that project instead of a proposal to widen Highway 49 south of Grass Valley.
The state funds for local projects originally were set aside to widen Highway 49 between La Barr Meadows Road and the Grass Valley city. But on Wednesday, county transportation leaders agreed they wanted to keep their choices open.
Too many variables remain, including uncertainty about whether Grass Valley voters would OK a transportation sales tax to fund the Dorsey interchange, officials said.
Grass Valley already has collected $20 million toward the interchange project in the past 10 years, set aside from federal and state funds.
Voters may be asked in November to approve a half-cent transportation sales tax, which would help fund the remaining $14 million for the interchange.
City leaders concede the timing, with the flagging economy and the need to educate voters, makes the success of a June ballot measure improbable, though Councilman Chauncey Poston said he was neither “counting nor discounting” a November ballot issue.
Poston, who sits on the Nevada County Transportation Commission, believes funding the project to widen the highway without first building the Dorsey interchange would be unwise.
“At this point, it’s, ‘Lets see how (the money) is needed,'” said Dan Landon, executive director of the transportation commission.
Area officials have wanted to build an interchange at Highway 49 and Dorsey Drive for 20 years, Landon said.
The interchange would take some of the traffic now flowing into congested intersections at Idaho-Maryland Road and Brunswick Drive, officials have said.
Local leaders also lack the “political will” to support tax measures for both projects at the same time, Poston added.
He’s also worried about the transportation tax’s prospects in the poor economy.
“It’s unlikely that it’s going to be successful at this time,” Poston said.
But the economy could be better by November, the next opportunity to put a sales tax before city voters.
State funds originally set aside for widening the two-mile stretch of Highway 49 only would be used for environmental review and project preparations, Landon said.
“If Dorsey Drive is funded through a transportation sales tax, then fine,” Landon said. “Commissioners are just keeping their options open.”
To contact Staff Writer Greg Moberly, e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org or call 477-4234.
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