Supes get look-see at road plans

By From page A1 | February 08, 2013

The El Dorado County’s Board of Supervisors got a first look at its Department of Transportation’s proposed Capital Improvement Plan for 2013 during Tuesday’s afternoon board session. Under the county’s General Plan, the board is required to update the CIP at least every year and coordinate each update with the “five-year major review of the General Plan,” according to documents in the board agenda.

DOT is also charged with developing a comprehensive CIP every five years which identifies and specifies expenditures for roadway improvements for the next 20 years. Supervisors are scheduled to adopt the final 2013 West Slope Road and Bridge Program in May.

Between now and then, however, the board directed staff to hold fire until future budget discussions clarify how much money is available or can be made available to fund a list of road and bridge projects through June 2014.

Two issues —  money and adequate public input — concerned supervisors enough that they opted to approve DOT’s recommended CIP alternative “in concept” only, while neither committing to its $1.8 million increase in the road fund nor its full scope of work.

The money would come out of the county’s General Fund and would become an annual allocation, as requested by DOT. Work proposed would primarily be maintenance and repair, including brushing, ditching, vegetation clearing and pavement resurfacing and sign maintenance. Part of the additional funding is required to pay seasonal employees for much of the labor-intensive work. The proposal includes a culvert and bridge project on the Rubicon Trail.

District 1 Supervisor Ron Mikulaco asked about the overall condition of the county’s roads.

“They’re all over the map,” John Kahling, DOT deputy director answered. “On average, our roads are average.”

The ongoing maintenance projects are a separate element of the CIP. Priority No. 1 for this year is to begin construction work on the Diamond Springs Parkway, DOT engineer Claudia Wade told the board at the beginning of the meeting.

Because of the board’s decision in December to “accelerate” the parkway project and because of funding requirements, work has to begin by December. The department has provided an estimate of $25 million for what it calls Option 3. That option proposes full buildout of the parkway and an additional two lanes to Highway 49 between Diamond Springs and the point where the state highway will intersect with the parkway near China Garden Way.

The proposed parkway drew some opposition during the meeting after District 5 Supervisor Norma Santiago questioned staff about the degree of public input and involvement leading up to the board’s approval of the project.

“There is a concern that things move forward without proper vetting,” Santiago said. “And with the Diamond Springs Parkway, the devil is in the details.”

She also expressed concern for the transition from a “more urban area (Missouri Flat) to a more rural area at Highway 49.”

Staff was quick to respond. Kim Kerr, interim director of DOT, reminded the board that it had approved a final Environmental Impact Report back in 2011 and Deputy Director for Engineering Matt Smeltzer said there had been “lots of public input.” Smeltzer also told the board that California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA) clearance had included both the parkway and the added lanes to Highway 49.

Area resident Kirk Smith pulled no punches when he addressed the board.

“It’s a horrible project,” he said and went on to describe “serious accidents and fatalities” on Sacramento Hill (Highway 49) coming into Placerville. Smith noted that, formerly called Hangtown Hill, the road was built before there were cars and that “there’s already too much traffic on the road.” He also said that many deer have been killed as residential development has reduced unobstructed routes across the road.

Jamie Beutler opposed the parkway, saying, “This project (the parkway and the Diamond Dorado Retail Center planned for the area) is going to change the character of Diamond Springs and El Dorado.” She added that an advisory group formed several years ago had received “no support or staff” and believed that the project was intended to encourage small business.

“Take it out of the CIP so the public can have their say,” Beutler urged. “It’s not fair at this time to go out and find what the community wants.”

Sue Taylor, a frequent critic of the board’s planning decisions, said she was concerned about debt that could be incurred by the project and said “most people objected to the EIR” done for the larger project.

“You’re going to put people out of business, the people who work there. We haven’t figured out how the (traffic) circulation will work… And I question the $25 million considering having to acquire (some of) the land,” Taylor said.

She also advised that funding from the agreement between the county and the Shingle Springs Band of Miwok Indians should be used for road maintenance rather than new projects. Under the agreement, the tribe pays the county $2.6 million per year for 20 years, and that amount is included in the DOT proposed CIP budget.

In addition to the maintenance program and parkway project, the department recommended three other projects to the list. They are: Traffic signal improvements on Green Valley Road; a Class II Bikeway on Green Valley Road from Loch Way to the signalized entrance at Pleasant Grove Middle School; and an El Dorado Trail Extension from Los Trampas to Halcon Road between Placerville and Camino. The latter is projected for construction beginning in fiscal year 2016-2017 at an estimated cost of $521,000. Full funding is available through the Bicycle Transportation Account.

The signal improvements and bikeway projects are set to begin construction during FY ’13-’14. Estimated cost for the signals work is $270,000 and for the bikeway $320,000. The department also requested inclusion of another “Traffic Signals and Intersection Operational Improvements” project into the 20-year segment of the 2013 CIP.

Other projects in the CIP include work on the Lake Tahoe Environmental Improvement Program and the Forest View Water Quality Project also at Tahoe. Upgrades at the county’s airports are also in the 2013 plan as is annual funding for “permit compliance activities” at the lake related to the Clean Water Act.

The department was directed to return to the board in March or April with an update and/or revision of the proposed CIP, although the issue is also expected to be discussed later this month during preliminary budget talks.

Contact Chris Daley at 530-344-5063 or [email protected] Follow @CDaleyMtDemo.

Chris Daley

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