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Waiting for gridlock not a solution

Near the end of a town hall forum about traffic issues at Nevada City’s council chambers Wednesday night, an audience member went to the microphone and told the distinguished panel of experts:

“One thing I learned tonight is that you don’t have solutions for the future. Highway 49 will become a four-lane highway, and whatever happens after that will just happen. And we’re gonna have to live with it.”

That’s one way of looking at the two-hour forum organized by KNCO-AM and sponsored by The Union. There was a lot of “there isn’t enough money for this,” “the location does not allow us to do that,” and “even if we could do it, the citizens wouldn’t stand for it.”



(The forum was broadcast live on KNCO, and look for a story today on http://www.theunion.com and on Friday in The Union. It also was taped for showing on Nevada County public access television. A second session dealing with traffic issues south of the Brunswick Basin and around Grass Valley will be held next Wednesday from 7-9 p.m. at the Grass Valley council chambers.)

But at least two valuable things came out of this town meeting. First, citizens at least came away with a better understanding of the traffic woes threatening to engulf them, even if they fear there is nothing that can be done about them. Second, understanding is the first step for city, county and state public officials and planners in figuring out creative ways for communities to take control over their own lives and their own problems.




One example: Boulder Street in Nevada City is a potholed, winding street where, despite those negatives, there are more and more cars because of increasing development outside town in that direction. Residents on one hand would like to fix the street, but on the other they fear the outcome would be more and even faster traffic.

Result: The problem gets worse because standard solutions, such as alternative routes, won’t work unless there is gridlock on Boulder. So we wait for that to happen.

Another example: Caltrans thinks a roundabout on the eastbound side of the freeway at Gold Flat Road is the best way to help solve a twofold problem with accidents and occasional congestion. The city says its citizens don’t like roundabouts, so stop signs will go in instead.

Result: That will deal with fender-benders, but congestion will only get worse. So we wait for that to happen.

It’s time we begin thinking proactively rather than reactively. Instead of listing the reasons we can’t deal with a problem, let’s try brainstorming new solutions.

One participant last night suggested speed bumps on Boulder Street. Crazy? Maybe not.

Or how about the Legislature coming up with new ways to finance local traffic solutions as a need arises instead of waiting 30 years to dole out funding, which will be the case if and when the Dorsey Drive interchange on the freeway finally opens.

If we wait for gridlock, it’ll be too late.


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