Aug. 4 workshop on streets plan |

Aug. 4 workshop on streets plan

Traffic affects virtually everyone, every day of their lives. I remember taking my dad’s jeep (“The Patti Wagon”), with its top down, full of high school girlfriends, and driving on the yet-to-be-paved freeway from Grass Valley to Nevada City – never imagining the number of cars it handles today.

Where it used to take 20 minutes to drive to Nevada City, now it is five. However, the Golden Center Freeway that was built in the late 1960s includes a ramp system that complicates our historic streets and was not built to handle today’s volumes.

The city’s General Plan strives to maintain a Level of Service (LOS) rated “D” or better at all locations during afternoon commute times. On the average, motorists will experience delays of 25 to 40 seconds at LOS D.

To ensure that traffic flows at an acceptable LOS, and needed improvements are constructed to address traffic bottlenecks and accommodate growth, the City Council commissioned a Street System Master Plan (SSMP). It provides a blueprint to attaining LOS D in the city and its sphere of influence over the next 20 years, assuming growth is in accordance with our General Plan.

Grant Johnson of Prism Engineering prepared the SSMP with guidance from a committee that included Linda Stevens and me representing the council, Planning Commissioner Lisa Swarthout, Nevada County Transportation Commission (NCTC) Executive Director Dan Landon and city staff. The public has participated in reviewing traffic issues and fixes at two workshops and a joint council/Planning Commission study session.

A final workshop is scheduled from 6 p.m. to 8 p.m. for Wednesday at the LOVE Building. The SSMP will be released in August for a 30-day public review period and can be reviewed at or City Hall.

A public hearing on the SSMP is expected to be held by the council on Sept. 28. When adopted, it will serve as a policy guide for addressing, prioritizing and funding transportation improvements.

Here are the key items in this document:

Frontage Road Corridor Ð The backups at the Idaho-Maryland/ East Main intersection, the short weave between the East Main on-ramp and Bennett off-ramp and the accidents involving South Auburn/Colfax/frontage road intersections all point to an interrelated problem.

The proposed solution is to direct (through a barrier installation) East Main on-ramp traffic onto the Bennett Street off-ramp and the southbound frontage road to join the freeway using the South Auburn on-ramp. Southbound freeway traffic could still exit using the Bennett off-ramp to access downtown.

This allows the Idaho-Maryland/East Main intersection to be signalized, a revamping of the South Auburn/Colfax/frontage road intersections and development of a new transit center. With such improvements, the entire corridor would operate at LOS D or better into the year 2020.

Downtown Main Street Corridor – This corridor experiences LOS F during peak hours, particularly with school traffic. Though many alternatives were explored, short-term recommendations include working with schools and employers to lessen peak demands, monitoring traffic flows with the completion of the Richardson Street extension and signalization, and a feasibility analysis of a southwest bypass.

Brunswick Road and Glenbrook Basin – This area experiences significant traffic peaks. Recommended improvements include installing a dual left-turn pocket on eastbound Brunswick Road to access Sutton Way, a dual on-ramp on Brunswick to enter the southbound freeway, and overhead directional signage on southbound Nevada City Highway to guide traffic onto Brunswick.

Work is continuing on the Dorsey interchange, which is currently slated for construction in 2009. NCTC and the city are reviewing options to keep this critical project on track.

Other recommendations – The SSMP recommends that the city reduce its local street-width requirements in a “smart growth” approach, and that development dedicate right-of-way for eventual four-lane widening as identified in the General Plan. The SSMP supports incorporating the use of transit, bicycles and trails where sensible.

A revision to the city’s traffic study policy is recommended, affecting proposed projects that significantly affect intersections with a failing LOS. Before any approved development projects would be allowed to obtain construction permits, the council must approve a project report for specific transportation improvements to achieve a LOS D, the funding source and a schedule for completion.

Such development may be required to provide traffic control staff to efficiently move traffic through specific intersections or implement other measures until the transportation improvements are completed.

Questions about the SSMP should be directed to Planning at 274-4330.


Patti Ingram is the mayor of Grass Valley.

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