Highway 174 project talks continue | TheUnion.com

Highway 174 project talks continue

Landscape architect Michael Smiley leads a discussion Wednesday evening held by the organization Save Hwy 174. The meeting was standing room only, and many attendees voiced their opposition to the proposed project.
Photo by Jennifer Nobles

A revised plan to widen Highway 174 would drop the number of trees felled by more than two-thirds and reduce the number of private acres needed for the project from 14.7 acres to 3.6 acres.

Still, members of the Save Hwy 174 organization question the need for the project at all. Caltrans maintained its position that the project is important for safety reasons.

The project, discussed Wednesday at a public meeting, would apply to a 1.9 mile stretch of road from Maple Way to You Bet Road.

The revised plan was developed in July. The new plan would allow for the removal of 450 trees, while the plan presented in October 2017 estimated that 1,700 trees would be fallen.

The revised plan would still create 12-foot lanes with 8-foot shoulders despite the lessened impact on trees and private property.

The Save Hwy 174 organization, however, said there are few things to like about the project in general.

“We have 13 years worth of data,” said Charley Hooper of Save Hwy 174. “This project was based on three years which happens to be exactly when we had the only three fatalities in the last 13 years.”

Though the number of threatened trees has been reduced in the revised plan, the committee is still unhappy at the thought of the removal of pines, oaks and heritage groves.

The group also claimed that if they were to widen, straighten, and flatten the road — as is the plan — people would just drive faster, nullifying some of the safety features the project is promising.

“We think that this project just doesn’t really balance the objective of safety with consideration of what this road is within the community,” said Hooper. “It’s a beautiful road. It’s historic. A lot of people really appreciate this road.”

Speed on the highway was a prominent topic of discussion, with many concerned that a wider road would lead to a perceived sense of safety. The committee also opposes CalTrans’ plan to increase the speed limit along the corridor by five miles per hour.

Representatives from CalTrans were present, and maintained that the project is necessary in order to maintain safety along the corridor.

Ticketing and cameras, they said, would not sufficiently prevent people from speeding, saying effectiveness lasts only a brief time, and that drivers would become familiar with the methods, rendering them ineffective.

CalTrans also said other highways in the north state that have undergone similar renovations as those proposed have experienced fewer accidents and are markedly safer than they were previously.

“We certainly support CalTrans in its efforts to improve safety,” said Dan Landon, executive director of the Nevada County Transportation Commission. “The other side of that coin is that we recognize the concerns of the commission and the fact that this corridor is named in the county general plan as a scenic corridor.”

Nevada County Transportation Commission is a mediator between CalTrans and Save Hwy 174 and have no funding going into the project.

Jennifer Nobles is a staff writer for The Union. She can be reached at jnobles@theunion.com or 530-477-4231.

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