Sixth-grader Jolie Allen takes on Highway 49 | TheUnion.com

Sixth-grader Jolie Allen takes on Highway 49

Stephen Roberson
Staff Writer
Jolie Allen, 11, a sixth-grader at Nevada City School of the Arts, has created the fix49.org website. She's collecting petition signatures, both online and on paper, focused on the dangers of Highway 49 and calling for action to make it safer.Since mid-December, there have been five fatalities on Highway 49, including Jude Douden and Joseph Rantz, seniors at Bear River.
The Union photo by Stephen Roberson

Jolie Allen has a lot going on.

The 11-year-old, sixth-grader from the Nevada City School of the Arts is a green belt in karate with some pretty sweet handles on the basketball court.

She’s also aware, active and empathetic.

So when she read a story on Joseph Rantz and Jude Douden, two Bear River High School seniors killed in a head-on collision on Highway 49 in December, she decided to turn her empathy into action.

FIX49.ORG

Allen is working on a Science, Technology, Engineering, Arts and Math (STEAM) project for school to raise awareness for Highway 49 safety.

She’s helped create the fix49.org website with brother and webmaster Silas Allen and Lisa Redfern of Redfern Studios, who designed the logo and produced a video accompanied by Bear River High School student Zayle Rudiger’s song “Angel.” The website, which has about 7,000 visitors, is designed to boost awareness of the safety improvements needed for Highway 49, which has had three deadly collisions and five fatalities since December.

“The website’s pretty cool,” Jolie Allen said. “It has pictures and two videos that Lisa Redfern made. It has info on Highway 49. You can sign the petition; you can read the comments. There’s a place to share your comments and there are a lot of people who’ve lost (someone close to them).

“There’s only one person who said, ‘This is a bad idea.‘ Everyone else thinks it’s a great idea.”

That one person, Jolie’s father Scott Allen said, is a ranch owner who would likely lose property through eminent domain if Highway 49 expands.

“People are going to be impacted if they own property on the road, but I don’t think anybody that bought property on a freeway is expecting it to stay single lane in each direction. Everybody knows someday it will get to four lanes.”

The website includes a petition, with an original goal of gaining 5,000 to 10,000 signatures to deliver to local politicians at the March 22 Citizens for Highway 49 Safety meeting at Bear River High School. Scott Allen said, realistically, they’ll likely end up with about 3,000 signatures.

The Citizens for Highway 49 Safety group was started by Deborah and Bruce Jones, who were involved in a head-on collision on Highway 49 on Dec. 19, 2003.

“Certainly politically or civically it’s great to start at that age,” Bruce Jones said of the project.

WE THE RESIDENTS …

The home page features the fix49.org mission statement:

“We the residents of Nevada and Placer Counties are greatly concerned by the recent head-on collisions on State Route 49 between Auburn and Grass Valley. We believe that a median barrier, widening the highway and other safety features would reduce the fatalities along this section of Highway 49.”

It also gives advice on how to make the road safer, including reducing speed, staying off cellphones, wearing seat belts, staying sober, respecting other drivers and basically using common sense. It also calls for increased speed enforcement.

“I’ve talked with people and they think the problem is we have too many slow drivers and everyone is trying to get around them,” Scott Allen said. “That may or may not be. But that’s where I think having a four-lane road would really help, and then a median …

“I don’t know the solution. We’re hoping that meeting on March 22 is a big gathering and maybe we’ll come to some kind of consensus. But to drag our feet and say, ‘Oh, in another 20 years it’ll be four lanes, I don’t think that’s acceptable.”

OUTREACH

Josie Allen has already addressed the leadership class at Nevada Union High School. She plans to do the same with Bear River soon and she plans on dropping off printed petitions to spread around both campuses.

She’s met with Dan Landon, the executive director of the Nevada County Transportation Commission, and Nevada County District 2 Supervisor Ed Scofield. They haven’t met with the California Highway Patrol, but they have been in contact and were told the CHP was going to try to expand its patrol on Highway 49.

She’s also asked permission of local store managers for employees to wear the buttons and supply customers with the website to help spread the word.

SPD Market, B & C True Value Hardware and Raley’s have agreed to help. One outlet told Scott Allen they couldn’t get involved.

“It’s amazing because they don’t want to get political,” Scott Allen said. “This is the most non-divisive issue in the area.”

MUSIC IN THE MOUNTAINS

Unknowingly, Jolie was first inspired at the Music in the Mountains concert. Before performing “Angel,” Rudiger talked about Douden, a close friend who helped him create “Angel,” but Jolie Allen didn’t know the backstory.

“I didn’t know he was talking about Jude, he just said, ‘Before he died.’ He didn’t say anything about Highway 49. And then a day or two later my dad showed me the article in the newspaper.”

To contact Staff Writer Stephen Roberson, email sroberson@theunion.com or call 530-477-4236.


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