Ray Zhang: Statistics show need for Highway 174 safety improvements in Nevada County
The Caltrans Highway 174 Safety Project seeks to increase motorist safety from You Bet Road to Maple Way — a stretch of the highway which has seen 102 reported collisions in the past 12.5 years (2005 to June 2017).
This particular segment of the highway was selected because 55 percent of all collisions resulted in injuries or fatalities, significantly higher than the 43 percent of all collisions for Nevada County’s segment of Highway 174 from Bear River to Grass Valley.
Caltrans and California Highway Patrol (CHP) collision statistics also identify collisions by “hit object” or “overturned” — collisions caused by errant vehicles leaving the roadway, colliding with a fixed object and/or overturning, a rate that increases from 42.5 percent for the whole Nevada County segment to 59.8 percent within the safety project limits. Compared to statewide data for similar roadways, the fatality rate for the project’s segment was over five times higher than the state’s average.
Caltrans receipt and verification of collision data resulted in the 2016 approval for funding the expanded $28.4 million safety project.
After soliciting public input to the project’s design, and making modifications to address identified concerns, Caltrans is now beginning the project’s next phase to acquire the rights of way necessary to construct the project.
These safety improvements include: a southbound left-turn pocket and increasing sight distance at Greenhorn Access Road, which is often used by motorists pulling boats and recreational vehicles; widening shoulders to permit increased CHP enforcement activities, room for a disabled vehicle or truck to get out of the travel lane, additional room for school buses, mail vehicles, garbage trucks or newspaper delivery, etc.; modifying, but not eliminating, several horizontal and vertical curves so motorists can navigate them more safely; and, increasing the clear recovery zone (CRZ — an area clear of fixed objects) to increase sight distance as well as permit an errant vehicle leaving the roadway to correct and return to the roadway safely.
Caltrans values both the rural nature of Highway 174, and the lives of motorists traveling the roadway.
The project’s design seeks to increase the safety of this critical state highway corridor and, as much as possible, preserve the beauty of Highway 174.
Ray Zhang is the acting District 3 director for the California Department of Transportation.
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