Colfax cider maker gets Gov. Jerry Brown’s eye in truck-route wrangle

Placer County panel backs $1.3 million Canyon Way-80 interchange upgrade
By: Gus Thomson, Journal Staff Writer
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Gov. Jerry Brown is supporting Colfax’s Crispin Cider Works in its attempt to solve a wrangle over federal highway regulations that has resulted in the company’s truckers being cited on the route in and out of town.

The issue revolves around the narrow turning ratios at the Canyon Way interchange on Interstate 80 and could result in an expenditure of $1.3 million in government funds to fix it.

On Wednesday in Auburn, the Placer County Transportation Planning Agency board unanimously voted to pledge $11,000 in funding to provide agency staff support for an attempt to reconfigure the entrances and exits to the overpass. The changes would allow Crispin freight trucks carrying apples and cider to legally negotiate the turns.

Celia McAdam, Transportation Agency executive director, told the board that the California Highway Patrol had started ticketing trucks for infringement of federal standards on turns in 2012. The Highway Patrol is currently not ticketing the truckers while a solution is being sought, she said.

But complaints from Crispin Cider Works about citations to their trucks prompted the interest of Brown’s office, McAdam said.

As well as local government support, the solution involves about $300,000 in Caltrans funding to pay for pre-construction work done by its employees. McAdam said that in-kind work has also been pledged.

The final $1 million to complete the project isn’t available from local-government coffers but McAdam said that the Governor’s Office interest signals a potential freeing of funding available through the California Transportation Commission. The board voted to support an attempt to secure the $1 million through the Regional Transportation Improvement Fund.

Colfax Mayor Tony Hesch told the board that Crispin, formerly Fox Barrel, was started by “two young guys both educated in Colfax” and originated in a garage. The business has since been absorbed by the Chicago-based MillerCoors. McAdam said it is one of the largest employers in Colfax.

“It’s a true success story but now all of a sudden our roads can’t handle it,” Hesch said.

Part of MillerCoors’ Tenth and Blake import- and craft-beverage division, Crispin continues to grow at its South Auburn street location. Mark Rasmussen, Tenth and Black communications manager, said Wednesday that he couldn’t say what would happen if the dispute over truck turns can’t be worked out.

“All I can say is there’s support for this at the state and local level,” Rasmussen said. “It’s something we’re obviously supportive of and will ultimately support our business and other businesses of Colfax that could use the expanded lanes as well.”

While Rasmussen said the corporation isn’t publicly discussing volume from the Colfax cidery, Crispin is growing. The Nielsen rating company tracked performance at grocery stores and found that Crispin case sales were up about 200 percent in 2013, he said. Rasmussen didn’t have the number of employees working at the Colfax site.

Michael Herrick, manager of Colfax Mini Storage adjacent to the Crispin plant, said he supports the moves now being made.

“It’s a business that helps the city of Colfax by employing people and bringing in revenue,” Herrick said. “Crispin has been a good business. I wouldn’t want to see them go.”