Our View: It’s worth it for our community to work with Caltrans | TheUnion.com

Our View: It’s worth it for our community to work with Caltrans

The Union Editorial Board

There’s an easy fix to improving highway safety in Nevada County — have everyone slow down and obey traffic laws.

Of course, you might discover it’s easier to find the money to fund a concrete divider from McKnight Way to Dry Creek Road than get drivers to pump the brakes.

The issue of highway safety continually winds its way through our public discourse, coming to the forefront now and then before disappearing behind a curve in the road.

We’re at one of the those straight-aways right now: the period of time when the community focuses its headlights on the highway, and improving it.

A series of email blasts from people affiliated with the Fix49 group, and an open house earlier this week about a Highway 20 project near White Cloud and Lowell Hill Road, has put some gas to the discussion. While unrelated, the projects are literally connected by a string of asphalt running through the heart of our county.

We all use these roads, and we want them to be safe.

The big question is: How do we accomplish that with a plan everyone likes?

The harsh answer: we likely don’t. These projects take years to complete, involve millions of dollars and affect every driver that uses the roads, regardless of whether they live here.

It’s highly unlikely we can agree on a plan, but what we can do is help shape the projects as they move through the bureaucracy and before they become set in, well, stone.

We need to accept the fact that a concrete divider will never stretch from Grass Valley to north Auburn. It isn’t financially feasible. It would block access to and from the highway from connecting roads. It’s just not going to happen.

Roundabouts, however, might prove more agreeable. They’d force traffic to slow at key spots, and wouldn’t stop left-hand turns onto or off the highway.

Highway 49 gets much of the attention, though Highways 174 and 20 deserve just as much focus.

Caltrans certainly thinks so, as it has projects in the works on both.

Highway 20, between Nevada City and the Interstate, can be treacherous. Ice hides in shady patches, leading drivers on an otherwise sunny day to find themselves sliding if they’re not careful.

Modifying the alignment of the road near White Cloud and Lowell Hill Road, increasing the radius of these curves and widening shoulders will only help make these spots safer.

The Highway 174 project appears to draw more ire. Straightening an almost 2-mile stretch of the highway has led to hard feelings among some residents.

It’s those hard feelings that helped move Caltrans away from its original project, and start compromising with the people who live on the highway.

That compromise is what we need more of. Because let’s be clear: Caltrans isn’t going to forego a project that’s been green lit. That’s why we, as a community, need to bring the state agency to the negotiating table as often as we can instead of railing against a project.

Caltrans has shown it’s willing to augment its plans, if we’re willing to work with them.

It’s a difficult process, and one that won’t always yield results we like. Then again, no one said this would be easy.

The weekly Our View editorial represents the consensus opinion of The Union Editorial Board, a group of editors and writers from The Union, as well as informed community members. Contact the board at EditBoard@TheUnion.com.

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