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Post office poses traffic challenges

The location of the post office has long compounded traffic on adjacent streets and the enhancements to the parking lot several years ago did not increase the amount of parking, nor did it help the traffic flow on city streets.

Many drivers have ideas about how to address traffic congestion and improve the flow of traffic in general. Some ideas have great merit and are worth pursuing while other suggestions are found to be unworkable after further review. Frequently minor adjustments are all that is needed to keep traffic flowing; although, on occasion, major projects are needed to increase an intersection or roadway’s capacity, such as the recent realignment of Bennett Street and Richardson Street.

A recent suggestion with merit is to extend the turning pocket on East Main in front of the Maria’s Restaurant. The city is negotiating with Maria’s to acquire this right of way in conjunction with the expansion of her business and parking. Extending the turning pocket will increase the westbound capacity of East Main and improve the functioning of the intersection and traffic signal that was recently installed at Bennett Street.



So, why are left turns into the Post Office prohibited? A left turn pocket would back traffic into the new signalized intersection and create gridlock. (Note that there is public parking across East Main from the Post Office to serve westbound traffic.) By using the southbound frontage road, (soon to be named Tinloy Street), it is possible to access the Post Office from eastbound East Main via South Auburn or Stewart Streets.

Another idea, the idea of reversing the parking lot at the Grass Valley Post Office, is not workable for the same reasons as mentioned above. The city explored this idea back in 2003 and even with the intersection realignment, the vehicle turning storage capacity on Bennett Street between the frontage road and East Main is less than currently exists. Also, because of turning restrictions, the amount of traffic entering the intersection would significantly increase. Thus, the City’s review of this idea concluded that this idea would not alleviate congestion around the Post Office but would potentially exacerbate the congestion.




However, this idea put more emphasis on a larger issue; that is, the traffic that backs up on eastbound East Main from drivers turning right into the Post Office.

The Engineering and Public Works Departments have developed a plan to provide immediate, temporary relief by creating an elongated right turn lane for vehicles desiring to enter the Post Office. This will result in restricted parking for approximately four spaces in front of the old George Bros. Building.

The Traffic Safety Review Committee and City Council will be reviewing these adjustments to determine whether they are effective and should be made permanent.

Furthermore, the city will be meeting with the postal officials to discuss ways to improve traffic flow and reduce the congestion caused by the Post Office. Topics will include a discussion of relocating the drop box, further development of satellite facilities and other ideas to improve flow and lessen congestion.

What about the plan to install a signal at East Main Street and Idaho Maryland Road? Though the intersection currently operates at a failing (“F”) Level of Service (LOS) during afternoon peak traffic periods, solving this problem is more difficult than it would appear.

To install a traffic signal at East Main and Idaho Maryland intersection, Caltrans requires that the 300 foot “short weave” section of freeway between the southbound East Main freeway on-ramp and the Bennett Street off-ramp can be addressed.

The weave’s crossover movements present a major traffic safety issue, which if left unattended is expected to fail within the next 2 to 3 years.

The most recent plan would combine the Bennett Street off-ramp with the existing East Main off-ramp through the development of auxiliary lanes. A joint on-ramp would merge with the freeway near Bank Street by widening the Bennett Street over crossing.

Advantages of this alternative are that it avoids forcing East Main on-ramp traffic to use the frontage road system, triggering improvements at the South Auburn / Colfax Avenue triangle and minimizing closure of the Bennett off-ramp. The challenge is that the cost of these mainline improvements is in the $4 to $6 million range.

As was clear at the Council’s Traffic and Transportation Workshop on March 2, 2005, traffic is a dynamic process and developing the best solutions requires vigilance and determination. The recently adopted Street System Master Plan identifies programs, policies and improvements to address traffic congestion and keep Grass Valley moving.

You are encouraged to review the Street System Master Plan at http://www.cityofgrassvalley.com. If you have comments or suggestions, please call 274-4310.

ooo

Gerard Tassone is the Major of Grass Valley.


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