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Scott and Jolie Allen: Improvements to Highway 49 corridor needed

Scott and Jolie Allen | Other Voices


Over the past decade, the collisions per year have increased over 40% and fatalities continue.

As members and founders of Fix49.org, which represents residents of Nevada and Placer counties, we are greatly concerned by the increasing number of accidents and fatalities on State Route 49 between Auburn and Grass Valley. We are also concerned that in the event of a mass evacuation, such as a wildfire, that Highway 49 is completely inadequate to handle the traffic with segments of varying lane widths shifting between a two-lane and four-lane highway, with lane-drops and merges that serve as evacuation choke points and exacerbate safety concerns.

When a fire happens in Alta Sierra for example, 7,000 people would need to merge onto a one-lane Highway 49 to evacuate southbound. Those 7,000 people will make the Camp Fire in Paradise look like child’s play.

Who is responsible and has been too slow to accomplish anything? Caltrans.

The Caltrans Interregional Transportation Strategic Plan must prioritize investment in safety and evacuation improvements. They must make completing the strategic interregional corridors — such as Highway 49 that address safety, connectivity, mobility, and are needed for evacuations — the top priority. Additionally, the highway serves as an I-80 emergency detour when I-80 is closed due to construction and maintenance activities, accidents, and wildfires, but again is inadequate to handle the associated high volumes of cars and trucks.

Over the past decade, the collisions per year have greatly increased (over 40%) and fatalities continue. The completion of the planned improvements to Highway 49 cannot be delayed any longer! We will not stand silent and let more lives be ruined due to injury and fatal accidents.

To date we have collected and given Caltrans over 3,000 signed petitions demanding these improvements, but we continue to be ignored and lives continue to be lost. Improvements are needed to bring the corridor to minimum facility standards, providing four travel lanes, installation of median barriers, roundabouts at key intersections, truck climbing lanes, turn pockets, and 10-foot shoulders.

When next major wildfire threatening the communities requires mass evacuation of Grass Valley, Nevada City and other unincorporated communities like Alta Sierra without the needed safety and evacuation improvements, it will result in tragedy.

During the recent evacuations that resulted from the River Fire, Highway 49 in its current configuration failed and resulted in additional accidents, stand-still traffic, and another fatality. The Jones Bar Fire also saw bumper-to-bumper traffic.

This is why it is so critical that the state commit our taxpayer dollars to fund the completion of these rural priority interregional corridors that critical for safety and evacuation, such as the Nevada County Transportation Commission’s State Route 49 Corridor Improvement Project (03-4E170) between McKnight Way in Grass Valley south to La Barr Meadows Road and their funding request submitted as part of the development of the Interregional Transportation Improvement Program.

This project provides direct benefits to rural communities of Nevada County through improved evacuation, safety, access, goods movement, and mobility of vehicular, pedestrian, and cyclist traffic on State Route 49.

This interregional priority corridor is the lifeline of the region, which facilitates movement of goods, access to service industries, residential, serves tourism, medical, jobs, and higher education facilities with connections to Placer County and I-80.

Our economy is directly impacted by Highway 49. Californians pay the highest gas taxes in the nation by far — over 65 cents/gallon. By contrast, our neighboring Arizona pays 19 cents, Nevada 33 cents, Oregon 37 cents and they have better roads.

Stop wasting our gas taxes on trains to nowhere and BS carbon offsets. Stop wasting our money and spend it on fixing Highway 49. As an engineer, I am disgusted by the inefficiencies of doing these 1 to 2 mile sections, done every five years. At this inefficient rate, it will take 40 more years to complete this project.

Please make this corridor and the planned improvements a priority in the 2021 Interregional Transportation Strategic Plan and Interregional Transportation Improvement Program as we cannot not afford to wait any longer.

Scott and Jolie Allen are the founders of http://www.Fix49.org.



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