Hwy 49 project in Grass Valley may be renamed after Ambassador Chris Stevens | TheUnion.com

Hwy 49 project in Grass Valley may be renamed after Ambassador Chris Stevens

Photo for The Union by John Hart
John Hart | The Union

Less than four months after U.S. Ambassador Christopher Stevens was killed in an attack in Benghazi, Libya, Grass Valley’s city council will consider renaming its most prominent project after its slain native son.

The proposal would rename the planned Dorsey interchange, a nearly $25 million project to add on- and off-ramps to Highway 49/20 at Dorsey Drive, after Stevens, who was born in 1960 in Grass Valley.

“It’s such an important project for us, and it’s funded by local, state and federal money,” said Grass Valley Mayor Dan Miller. “We’re trying to get his name on there.”

The council will take up the matter at its Jan. 8 meeting, little more than a month after Stevens was laid to rest in Grass Valley.

Stevens was reportedly killed during an attack on the U.S. consulate in Benghazi on the 11th anniversary of the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks. Also killed in the consulate attack were a State Department computer expert and two former Navy SEALs acting as CIA security contractors.

The events surrounding Stevens’ death remain at the center of political wrangling in the nation’s capital that saw the ousting of presumed Secretary of State appointee Susan Rice, the U.S. ambassador to the United Nations.

Discussions to honor Stevens in Grass Valley initially focused on corridors in the downtown historic district, Holler said.

“But that didn’t seem to be big enough,” Holler said.

If approved by the council, the Dorsey Interchange renaming would need to be approved by Caltrans, said Trisha Tillotson, the city’s senior civil engineer.

In the works for 30 years, the interchange will not only necessitate added ramps but also the widening of the highway and added sidewalks and lighting on the Dorsey Drive bridge spanning the thoroughfare.

“The Dorsey interchange project has been identified as the city’s priority at this point,” Tillotson said.

The project draws its name from Dorsey Drive — but that road name’s origin is less certain.

Several Dorsey families are tied to Grass Valley and Nevada County history, according to Searls Historical Library records.

“It’s a reasonably common surname,” said Louise Beesley, a Searls volunteer.

A J.J. Dorsey arrived in Grass Valley in 1852 from Indiana, by way of the Midwest, Beesley reported. This Dorsey became a county supervisor and assessor on top of his many mining interests.

While J.J. Dorsey appears to be the most prominent man to bear that name in county history, there is also a Samuel P. Dorsey, who was the supervisor of the Maryland Mine, Beesley reported.

“This might also be the guy the street is named after,” Beesley said.

This Dorsey’s descendants went on to have vested interests in the Idaho-Maryland Mine, Beesley discovered.

A V.L. Dorsey also had mining connections to Grass Valley, she found.

While there were many Dorseys living in and around Grass Valley in the early 1900s, most moved away to the Bay Area in the 1920s, Beesley said.

A phone call to a Danielle Ivy-Dorsey, listed in the AT&T phone book as a Grass Valley resident, yielded a disconnected number.

“It doesn’t look like there is an active group of Dorseys living here right now,” Beesley said.

Dorsey Drive draws its name from a subdivision of the same name that appears on county records from before 1950, said Steve Castleberry, director of Nevada County’s Public Works Department.

“It carried that name since 1949, according to an old county map and subdivision map,” Castleberry said. “I don’t have anything before that.”

Whatever name it bears, the bids to construct the new interchange will be opened Jan. 22, with the project being awarded by early February. To date, no bids have been submitted to Grass Valley, Tillotson said.

“That’s common,” Tillotson said. “Bids usually don’t get submitted until the end.”

The Grass Valley City Council will meet at 7 p.m. Tuesday at City Hall, located at 125 East Main St. An agenda for that meeting is expected Friday afternoon.

To contact Staff Writer Christopher Rosacker, email crosacker@theunion.com or call (530) 477-4236.

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