Community planning: ‘Step right this way’
In an “Other Voices” article on Aug. 27, the writer noted: “If Grass Valley is going to grow in a way that reflects what residents actually want, there needs to be a community-based planning process, with serious workshops and citywide surveys.”
I could not agree more with this statement, and for that purpose the Nevada County Transportation Commission, Grass Valley, and Caltrans hosted a workshop on July 26 to let people know that a planning project is underway and to give them an opportunity to comment before decisions are made.
What is being considered? A new road between Allison Ranch Road and State Route (SR) 49, connecting with SR 49 in the Crestview Drive/Smith Road area with an interim at-grade intersection and/or a grade-separated interchange.
Why is this being considered? The Grass Valley General Plan recognizes that future growth will create the need for additional circulation in the southern part of the community and includes a connection to SR 49 in this area. To preserve the functionality of SR 49, and to enhance the safety of the motoring public, Caltrans and the Nevada County Transportation Commission are planning for the future widening of SR 49.
Two developments, South Hill Village and Northstar, have applied for annexation to the City of Grass Valley. Rather than deal with these issues in piecemeal fashion, Grass Valley, Nevada County Transportation Commission, Caltrans, and Nevada County, along with the two developers, are cooperating in a study to evaluate possible intersection/interchange locations, and to evaluate alignments for an east/west connector route. Information to be developed and analyzed in this process includes:
• Caltrans design requirements for intersections and interchanges.
• Frontage road and local circulation requirements.
• Reconnaissance-level environmental review of the following aspects of the interchange locations and connecting routes:
– traffic and circulation
– biological resources
– cultural resources;
– community impacts (existing residences and businesses and economic impacts)
• Identification of a most reasonable/feasible alternative.
Who is paying for all of this work? The Northstar and South Hill Village developers are sharing the total cost of $441,000 for this planning and engineering work.
Who will make the decisions? Caltrans will make the ultimate decision regarding the viability of an intersection and/or interchange on SR 49. Before issuing any permits for a connection to SR 49, Caltrans wants the following information:
• When an interchange will be needed.
• Design of the proposed connection(s).
• Sufficient environmental studies to show that significant issues can be mitigated.
• Public input on the proposal(s).
• Cost of proposed improvements.
With regard to the annexation requests, the City of Grass Valley will determine if construction of the development projects and transportation facilities can be phased in a manner consistent with the General Plan and consider whether the financing plans for the proposed transportation improvements are acceptable.
When will the decisions be made? A preliminary report will be prepared for review this fall. It is expected that a final report will be ready for the council and Caltrans by early 2005, with the following information:
1. Feasibility of a new east/west connector road.
2. Design, location, and operational features of an at-grade signalized intersection and an interchange.
3. How proposed improvements will be funded.
Is this community-based planning? Notices regarding the July 26 workshop were sent to 527 property owners. The information mailing list has since grown to 569. Eighty to 100 persons attended the workshop; for two weeks after the workshop, display boards were set up in the Grass Valley City Hall. In response to our request for comments, over 50 letters have been received. The display boards are now in the office of the Nevada County Transportation Commission, and anyone desiring to review them is welcome to come to our office.
What is the next step? No decisions have been made. Data is still being developed and the community will have more opportunities for comment. To give the community a complete range of alternatives, and in accordance with the California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA), a “no project” alternative will be analyzed. When a report for the Grass Valley Council has been assembled, it will be shared with the public prior to action by the council.
Daniel B. Landon is executive director of the Nevada County Transportation Commission. For further information, to submit comments, or to be added to the mailing list for future meetings and information, please contact him at 101 Providence Mine Road, Suite 102, Nevada City, CA 95959; (530) 265-3202; or e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org.
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