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Another View: Enough red tape to stripe California’s highways

By: Kirk Uhler, guest columnist
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No one understands the needs of Placer County residents better than the people who live here. We love our community and are always looking for things we can do to make it even better. As both a county supervisor and a longtime member of the Placer County Transportation Planning Agency (PCTPA) board of directors, I enjoy working with other local elected officials to identify and solve those problems most impactful to our constituents. Together, we have been forward-thinking, proactive and worked to ensure our region’s transportation infrastructure meets the needs of our community. Together, we’ve “broken the bottleneck” on Interstate 80 through Roseville and soon will be opening the Lincoln Bypass. Indeed, we’ve made great progress, but there’s always more to be done. Instead of waiting for problems to surface, we’re looking to find solutions. Sometimes, unfortunately, a simple solution gets cluttered by regulations and red tape. By breaking the Roseville bottleneck, we have illuminated the next big problem that needs to be fixed — congestion at the I-80/Highway 65 interchange. While we are exploring the long-term, permanent solution, it occurred to me that there might be a simple, short-term fix that would show immediate results. The existing bridge on northbound 65 from westbound I-80 to Galleria Boulevard/Stanford Ranch Road exit is both wide enough and structurally engineered to accommodate another lane of traffic. Transforming the shoulder alongside SR-65 into an auxiliary lane would widen the roadway from two to three lanes. PCTPA’s analysis of the roadway shows the affected area is less than a mile and could produce immediate benefits. We believe that re-striping would ease congestion, increase safety and help alleviate a major headache for commuters. Construction for a project of this size is estimated at four to six months, including reinforcements to the shoulder between the end of the bridge and Galleria Boulevard/Stanford Ranch Road exit to accommodate a lane of traffic. Sounds easy enough, right? Sadly, it’s not, because of regulatory red tape. You see, the state sees no difference between a small re-striping like this and a major new road or bridge. While some steps in the state process, like a traffic study to make sure the layout will be most effective, make sense, other steps, like including an Environmental Impact Report (EIR), make no sense at all. An EIR? To re-stripe an existing roadway? This regulatory process will add approximately two years of planning and $350,000 in expenses. All this for a stripe? That’s what happens when state lawmakers try to create roadways as opposed to local planners and engineers. Local governments shouldn’t have to spend taxpayer dollars to fund unnecessary studies that are required to satisfy the bureaucracy and meet regulations that are out of touch with reality. Sure, the state needs to maintain the integrity of the highway system, but with more and more of the funding burden for improvements falling on local agencies, shouldn’t they give us the power to plan and implement these improvements? We need to trust our local planners, not tie them up in a ball of red tape and waste precious resources. Turning a six-month lane re-striping/shoulder improvement into a three-year ordeal is ridiculous. Your locally elected representatives are working overtime to cut the red tape so we can paint a white stripe. Kirk Uhler is a member of the Placer County Board of Supervisors representing District 4, which includes portions of Roseville and Granite Bay.