With traffic flow being the driving force, a plan to enhance the communities of El Dorado and Diamond Springs is in the process of being drafted by the El Dorado County Transportation Commission.
Called the Diamond Springs and El Dorado Area Mobility and Livable Community Plan, the document not only addresses options for improving traffic circulation in the area, but also population growth, jobs and cityscape issues such as sidewalks, landscaping, bike paths and crosswalks with an eye for how those communities may look 10 to 20 years from now.
“There’s no other community on the western slope of El Dorado County that is having a plan like this done,” said EDCTC senior transportation planner Dan Bolster. “Other communities would love to have this done for them.”
Bolster said the plan actually grew out of a State Route 49 realignment study that began in 2010. However as various transportation and community issues arose during the study, EDCTC decided to go after a $250,000 Caltrans grant to prepare a community plan that focused on the El Dorado and Diamond Springs area.
As part of the process for preparing the plan, a year-long visioning effort was undertaken in which stakeholder groups and residents were asked to respond to different long and short-range scenarios for the area, taking into account population and job growth projections.
Bolster said 45 different stakeholder groups and organizations served as an advisory body on the project.
Two public workshops were also held with residents who were asked to identify what values were most important to the community in designing the plan.
The answer that came back repeatedly, according to Bolster, was preserving the historical and rural nature of the area.
“The community really wants to preserve the historic core of El Dorado and Diamond Springs,” he said. “In particular they want to preserve the architectural and historic character of the downtown.”
Combining efforts to improve traffic flow while enhancing the appeal of downtown, one option that was discussed was removing on-street parking and using parking lots instead. “This would have to be coordinated with the business community,” said Bolster, adding that removing the parking spaces would allow the sidewalks to be widened and bike lanes added.
Bolster said wider sidewalks would make the downtown more accessible to those in wheelchairs and would allow restaurants to have outdoor eating areas. “Right now Diamond Springs and El Dorado are missing out on the economic benefit of the south county wine traffic,” he said, noting that 70 percent of Fair Play area traffic funnels through Diamond Springs. With more attractions downtown such as outdoor restaurants and bed and breakfast type hotels, it’s anticipated that Diamond Springs and El Dorado could capture some of the revenue streaming south.
Bolster said such improvements would also attract businesses to relocate to the area because of the lifestyle and recreational opportunities available. “That’s longer term and fits in with the community vision of where it wants to be in 20 years — attracting better and well-paying businesses,” he said.
A more controversial part of the plan is proposed changes at the intersection of Pleasant Valley Road and Highway 49.
Three different options for improving circulation at the intersection have been proposed. One is to leave the existing stop signs but add sidewalks and enhance the crosswalks. A second is putting in a traffic signal. The third option is a roundabout in front of Poor Red’s, an option that would mean taking out some of the on-street parking.
Bolster said so far, the feedback is that no one wants the traffic signal while a few others have concerns about the roundabout.
One of those is George Turnboo who owns a gas station at the intersection.
“Putting in the roundabout would mean taking out parking for two local businesses,” he said. “It’s wrong and will hurt businesses because there would be no way to stop and shop. It’s crazy for them to be doing this here,” he said, adding that there is also a drainage problem in the area. Turnboo went on to say that not enough notice was being given to local residents so they know about what kinds of plans are being made for the community.
However, Bolster said the roundabout, while not popular in the county, would improve the flow of traffic and would make it easier for people to cross the intersection. “It has a bigger footprint,” he acknowledged, “but improves the level of service.”
Bolster said that they would probably recommend carrying out the first option initially and enhance the sidewalks and crosswalks. Then in 10 years, they would revisit the idea of the roundabout. Perhaps at that time, the community will look at the idea more favorably, he said.
Aside from road circulation, Bolster said the plan also addresses the location of bike trails and bike paths as means of transportation and recreation as well as where traffic signals are needed.
Residents and stakeholders will have a chance to review and comment on the draft plan at a series of upcoming meetings. On Feb. 13, the draft will be presented to the El Dorado County Planning Commission. That meetings start at 9 a.m. On March 6 it will go back before the EDCTC for a hearing at 2 p.m. All EDCTC meetings are held in the Board of Supervisors chambers. The Planning Commission meets at 2850 Fairlane Court.
The plan is also available at EDCTC’s Website at http://www.edctc.org/Projects.html.
Bolster said all the comments received from stakeholders and residents will be recorded so that elected officials know which options have public support and which ones don’t.
“I’m very excited that Diamond Springs and El Dorado community are going to have a transportation plan that intends to preserve the historic and rural character of the area,” he said. “One that also provides a more livable, walkable and bikeable community that’s easier to get around and will enhance the economic well-being of the community. A place where people come to live and visit.”
Contact Dawn Hodson at 530-344-5071 or [email protected] Follow @DHodsonMtDemo on Twitter.