Widening 49 won’t solve root problem
Either today or tomorrow, the state highway commission will decide whether to undertake a $10 million project to widen Highway 49 from the Bear River bridge to Combie Road.
There’s little doubt that the project is needed. Traffic backs up badly along that section of road each evening as commuters return home to southern Nevada County from jobs at Roseville and Sacramento.
Widening the road to a consistent four lanes throughout the 2.7-mile stretch north of the bridge would remove the bottlenecks and allow folks to get home more quickly and in better humor.
If the project is approved – and we strongly believe that it should – work will begin this autumn. The only shame is that we’ll need to wait that long.
In the same breath, however, the widening of Highway 49 points up the ways that projects designed to deal with existing problems themselves can create other problems in the future.
Once this project is completed, it will make the commute easier for our neighbors who make the daily drive to the big job centers in southern Placer County and downtown Sacramento.
Nobody will begrudge an easier life for our neighbors, and most agree that the community is strengthened when working parents are able to spend more time with their families.
At the same time, however, an easier commute also makes Nevada County more attractive to those who have been thinking about moving here.
As more families move here – a rural lifestyle combined with a city paycheck is a powerful draw – congestion on Highway 49 grows that much worse.
And then we’ll widen the highway once again to assist our neighbors who are stuck in traffic at 5:30 each evening.
The answer? Bringing jobs and housing closer to one another. That requires a commitment from the community to creation of good-paying jobs in Nevada County, and it requires a commitment from the community to allow homes that workers can afford close to job sites.
We can widen highways again and again for some temporary relief. Or we can begin to address the root problems.
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