Highway 49 road improvements OK’d between Grass Valley and Auburn

By: Gus Thomson, Journal Staff Writer
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A narrow stretch of Highway 49 between Auburn and Grass Valley is getting $1 million for a safety upgrade. The California Transportation Commission approved the funding on Thursday, clearing the way for extending a passing lane just north of the Wolf-Combie crossroads by slightly more than half a mile. Caltrans spokeswoman Rochelle Jenkins said the extension of the passing lane will give motorists the chance to safely pass without going into ongoing traffic. The funding was part of a busy day for the transportation commission Thursday. It allocated $298 million for 81 transportation projects. None of the projects were in Placer County. Some of the funding is coming from federal economic-recovery coffers but the Nevada County work was from the state. It comes from a pool of funds, including state gas taxes. “These projects will create thousands of jobs and boost the economy while improving the state’s highway system,” said Will Kempton, Caltrans director. The project along Highway 49 is shovel ready and work could begin as soon as a contract can be awarded, possibly this year, Jenkins said. Word of the funding proposal reached the Nevada County Transportation Commission on Monday. David Landon, the commission’s executive director, said it was news to him but good news. “Motorists proceeding north from Combie Road will be better able to merge,” Landon said. “Folks get squeezed at the end and have even had to pull to the side of the road as lanes merge into a single lane.” The county commission hadn’t been seeking specific funding for that portion of Highway 49, just north of Lake of the Pines. But it’s one piece of the puzzle in improving safety along the busy corridor, Landon said. “It fits in with our planning,” Landon said. “We’re very happy to have the improvements.” The Journal’s Gus Thomson can be reached at