Troubled crossings targeted
The intersection at Idaho Maryland Road and East Main Street earned an F on its last report card.
Just like students at nearby Hennessy and Grass Valley Charter schools, intersections receive letter grades for their annual performances, and if their grades start to slip, administrators step in.
The administrators of Grass Valley’s roadways – the City Council, Planning Commission, and members of the public – convened Tuesday evening for the unveiling of the city’s first comprehensive street plan, a forward-looking document drafted to improve driving conditions and fix failing intersections.
All Idaho Maryland/East Main needs is a stoplight, traffic consultant and comprehensive plan author Grant Johnson told the administrators. But adding a stoplight would compound the difficulty of “weaving” onto the Golden Center Freeway.
To eliminate the dangerous 300-foot “weave” – created by crossing vehicles entering and exiting the southbound freeway between Bennett and East Main streets – Johnson’s plan calls for a raised curb separating crossing traffic and an expanded ramp system.
Voila – due to the city’s diligent studying, Idaho-Maryland’s grade could jump to a C and the “Weave’s” D- would become an A.
Johnson’s plan includes a host of additional recommendations, which elicited varied reactions from the assembled officials and citizens. Sticky points included stoplights and the plan’s assumption of a 2 percent population growth rate.
No one embraced Johnson’s suggestion to install a stoplight at the intersection of Church and Main streets, one of the options he presented to raise Main Street’s current failing grade.
Commissioner Dale White called traffic signals an “abhorrent element” in historic downtown Grass Valley.
“Cars will overwhelm us in due course,” White said. “I’m concerned about compromising what we have for the benefit of a motor vehicle.”
Alternatives to a stoplight include routing climbing traffic onto Richardson Street, staggering school and business schedules to reduce traffic, and constructing a bypass from Ridge Road to Highway 20.
But the most contested portion of the plan was its assumption of a 2 percent growth rate, a figure Johnson derived from Department of Finance 20-year averages.
That figure – and the plan’s projections, which are based on the growth rate – do not include four large residential developments that have been proposed around the city.
Johnson, with the concurrence of several council members, said it was not realistic to assume all the developments will be approved.
“If we did include all the (developments) we would have six-lane freeways,” Johnson said.
In addition to addressing circulation issues, the street plan suggests several other changes in the city’s policies.
Several development projects, including the Chapa De Health Center, are currently being delayed because of their potential contribution to inner-city congestion. To resolve the hold on development, the plan suggests waiving traffic requirements for the development if the city already has plans to improve affected intersections and roads.
Developers would still have to pay for their projects’ contributions to congestion.
The plan also calls for narrower streets, bike lanes, and a web of bike and pedestrian trails through the city.
The take-home point of the study is that leaders need to do something, Johnson said. “There’s a threshold how much traffic can get through downtown. You’re at it.”
The plan is available at the city’s Web page: http://www.cityofgrassvalley.com. Click on Draft Street Master Plan at the top of the screen.
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