Rushed decision on roads?
Recently, the Nevada County Transportation Commission and potential developers asked some affected residents to choose one of two routes for a new arterial connecting Allison Ranch to Highway 49 via a new Crestview/Smith Road interchange. Six other choices were eliminated before the presentation on July 24.
The developers want to recommend one of the two choices to Grass Valley’s City Council within two months. The need for an urgent decision is the potential traffic that will be generated by the Northstar and SouthHill Village developments, along Allison Ranch and LaBarr Meadows roads, respectively.
While the connector road is identified in the 1999 Grass Valley General Plan, the number of houses for Northstar in the General Plan is 363; now the developer is proposing 2,000 homes. The SouthHill developer is proposing 312 houses (the General Plan does not show planned houses for SouthHill). Were the routes for the connector chosen based on 675 houses or 2,312 houses? Should the residents of Grass Valley vote on changes to the General Plan before roads are planned for those changes?
None of the eight alternatives have been studied for environmental impact, nor has a traffic analysis been done for 2,312 houses. Would one of the six rejected choices be better than the two presented when all factors have been considered?
One of the biggest traffic headaches in the area is Highway 49 south of McKnight – its Level of Service (LOS) is F, the lowest rating possible (yes, F means failure).
Although Highway 49 is not under Grass Valley’s control, the bulk of the traffic on 49 is both caused by and affects people who live and work in Grass Valley. How can Grass Valley planners, and especially the Nevada County Transportation Commission, possibly consider putting traffic from an additional 2,312 houses onto 49 before it is four lanes? Where will the traffic from these developments go if it doesn’t go onto 49?
The Street System Master Plan (SSMP) discussed in Mayor Patti Ingram’s July 31 Other Voices column in The Union was commissioned to provide a blueprint for attaining LOS D or better by 2020 assuming growth, according to the 1999 General Plan. If the intersection changes recommended by the SSMP are carried out, will the expanded/repaired intersections be adequate for the additional 1,637 Northstar houses not in the General Plan?
The SSMP states that “most of the existing and future congestion problems in the city are related to closely spaced intersections on key surface streets, or closely spaced freeway on- and off-ramps, each of which are limited in their ability to be mitigated through widening, signals, etc.”
In spite of the current problems with “closely spaced on- and off-ramps,” no one has considered a 49 interchange much further south of McKnight for traffic coming from Northstar and SouthHill (Crestview is only 0.9 miles from McKnight).
An interchange where Allison Ranch and LaBarr Meadows meet 49 would also solve the LaBarr Meadows/Hwy. 49 problem, but there are four miles of possible locations for an interchange between there and Crestview. Would people take these roads instead of 49? They would if the roads were widened and made into real alternatives to 49.
What is clearly needed is a group that is independent of the cities and county to look at the effect development in one city has on other cities and on the county.
One of the most disturbing aspects of the July 24 presentation was that the large chart maps had at least one error: Grass Valley’s Sphere of Influence was wrong. This may have been the only error, or it may be an indication of rushed and poorly done work on the entire study.
Did other errors affect the choice of alternatives, or which were rejected prior to traffic and environmental studies, or the omission of alternatives much further south? Why route one alternative through a home occupied by the same person for 34 years instead of the adjacent property that is a currently empty rental or the next property that has no house? Again, one error or rushed work?
Much more work needs to be done before any recommendation goes to the City Council.
Edward Russell has been a resident of the county just outside Grass Valley city limits for slightly over two years and is someone who would like the future Grass Valley to be much like the current Grass Valley – but maybe with fewer traffic problems.
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