Hwy. 49 tops priority list
Widening Highway 49 from Grass Valley to Combie Road in southern Nevada County was listed by the Board of Supervisors Tuesday as its top priority for 2006.
“The best thing for the safety of the road is to widen it,” said Supervisor Sue Horne, who travels the highway daily.
Other board members acknowledged that a recent spate of deaths on that stretch of the highway – including 12 people who were killed in 2005 – called for expediting the widening project.
The board voted unanimously to ask Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger to include the project in his recently announced strategic growth plan for California infrastructure.
The cost of the project was estimated between $100 million and $200 million by Horne and county transportation commission director Dan Landon.
The board said the county could try to get the money from two bond proposals Schwarzenegger will put before voters in June 2006, and Nov. 2008, to fund his plan. The county could also seek the money from existing state transportation funds.
“We’ve been working since the late ’80s to get 49 widened,” Landon said. “This will be an uphill battle.”
Landon said the highway was scheduled for widening in 2010, “but that won’t happen.” The governor’s first priority in his plan is to get commerce moving easier from ports, Landon said, which does not appear to be good news for inland counties like Nevada.
But Bruce and Deborah Jones, who were involved in a head-on crash on the road and have formed Citizens for Highway 49 safety, said they recently met with Assemblyman Rick Keene, (R-Chico), who said he understands the problem and will help fight for funding.
Board members John Spencer and Robin Sutherland did not agree with some county residents who said widening the road would induce growth and development.
“This is an ongoing problem that will get worse as growth occurs,” Sutherland said. “It’s appropriate to have good infrastructure before growth.”
“It’s a sensitive issue and some see it as a growth-inducing issue,” Spencer said. “But I have to say by not making 49 wider there are also impacts and those impacts of late have been deaths.”
To contact senior staff writer Dave Moller, e-mail davem@the union.com or call 477-4237.
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