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Traffic difficult now – the scary facts

There’s lots of traffic out there on our roadways and it seems to be getting worse. How did all this traffic come about and who is responsible for it? Recently several of us from Citizens Concerned About Traffic (CCAT) looked into how the increases occur in Grass Valley. We specifically looked at “Traffic Reports” which are written for most development projects so that everyone will know how much traffic each project will create.

THE FIRST SCARY FACT: The City thinks it can build itself out of traffic problems. That is Ð the more projects and thus more traffic, the more fees to fix the problems. This is like fixing the barn door after the big traffic horse is out on the street.

SUGGESTION: Let’s fix traffic problems before adding more traffic.

SCARY FACT TWO: There is built-in Conflict of Interest for traffic reports. For whom do traffic consultants work? Presently, consultants are hired by and work for a developer. This relationship can lead to pleasing the developer rather than adhering to the appropriate process. Here’s an email we found in one of the city’s project files that was sent from a traffic consultant to our local governmental staffs:

“Why don’t we error on the side of letting this thing slide a little. It would help get this report I did off the dime, it will help Andy and his client as well, and it probably doesn’t make much difference as far as the new City policy is concerned.” (footnote Ð the error did go in favor of the project which was then approved by the City).

SUGGESTION: The city should hire a traffic consultant for a project from an approved list developed by the city, but continue to have the developer pay for the consultant’s report. The consultant would be more inclined to meet city guidelines, knowing that not doing so might result in no longer being on the approved list. In addition, city staff should increase its oversight of traffic reports to assure that the city’s policies contained in Resolutions #93-73 and 02-18 are strictly followed, particularly in respect to traffic count thresholds.

SCARY FACT THREE: Traffic reports are written in a manner few people can understand. In parts that we did understand, supporting evidence for some conclusions was inconsistent. When questioning city staff about these problems, the response was, “we are not professional traffic engineers,” therefore the reports are usually accepted as submitted. In the recent BriarPatch Project review, we raised certain traffic issues, causing the city to hire, at its own expense (your tax dollars), a traffic consultant to review the first consultant’s report. This second opinion differed in traffic count from the first by 28 percent! Further, we discovered that different consultants would designate the same business differently to get different traffic counts Ð usually lowering the counts. Some consultants mix business types even in the same report which confuses traffic counts.

SUGGESTION: There should be: 1) clear, understandable evidence supporting each calculation on traffic counts; 2) conclusions in plain language; 3) a city-developed checklist specifying how traffic reports are to be written; and 4) better definitions for traffic counting by business type included in City Resolution #93-73.

FOURTH SCARY FACT: The city routinely fails to include known future projects in the area of a proposed project as required by the state law, California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA). Currently most traffic reports only consider traffic created by a specific project. What the reports don’t consider is traffic from current and foreseeable projects in the surrounding area, even those which have been approved but not yet built. The city is exposing itself to litigation (our tax dollars at risk) for failure to conform to state law. Even the city’s environmental legal consultant, recommended in a memo to the city, March 23, 2004, the inclusion of “cumulative impacts” in the city’s traffic reviews, but it has not been implemented.

SUGGESTION: The city should insure that its traffic policies, including City Resolution #02-18, conform to CEQA law.

TRAFFIC IS DIFFICULT NOW Ð and we fear it will get worse if the present traffic planning process is allowed to continue. But, it can get better if citizens insist on change. Check out these scary facts for yourself Ð visit City Hall and request to see the various reports.


Grant Cattaneo is a resident of Grass Valley


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