Friday Oct 16 2009
Placer makes inroads in better transportation
By: Jim Holmes, Placer County Supervisor
This year has presented its fair share of challenges to Placer County, but amidst the many fiscal obstacles local governments are confronted with, there are some areas where we were able to see progress — most significantly in local transportation projects. Placer County recently completed safety and traffic flow improvements to the busy intersection of Highway 49 and Nevada Street. The intersection had become a safety hazard in recent years and through a joint project between Caltrans and the Placer County Public Works Department, new traffic signals were installed and a new left turn lane was added. The measures have significantly improved the safety of the intersection as well as reduced the traffic congestion during peak travel times. Supervisor Ted Gaines worked tirelessly to ensure that the current state budget does not take local gas tax revenues from cities and counties. Unfortunately, rumors continue to circulate that Sacramento may still take those funds to help fill remaining budget gaps. This funding is particularly important to local governments as we rely on it to maintain our streets including repairing potholes and repaving. Without these resources, Placer County’s roads and streets could fall into significant disrepair costing us much more in the long term. Of regional importance is the fact that two Placer County Transportation Planning Agency (PCTPA) projects continue to move forward as scheduled with significant savings. The state budget enabled the state to move forward with selling Proposition 1B bonds, a major funding source for both the Highway 65 Lincoln Bypass and the Interstate 80 Bottleneck expansion. This phase of the I-80 improvement project was initially budgeted at $34.8 million, but the winning bid came in much lower at $21.8 million. The $13 million in savings may be reinvested to improve the interchanges at I-80/Eureka Road and I-80/Highway 65. Once the Bypass and Bottleneck projects are completed, Placer residents will benefit from improved transportation infrastructure and reduced congestion in these highly trafficked areas. Unfortunately, not all transportation news is good news. The county’s public transit funding fell victim to the state budget with the elimination of both the State Transit Assistance program, which normally provides about $3 million for Placer jurisdictions, and “spillover” funds that would have funded local transit services. The elimination of these programs exacerbates the challenges facing already struggling public transportation providers. To ensure that public transportation continues to be available to those who need it most, PCTPA has developed public-private partnerships to support transit in Placer County. While the economy continues to present its challenges, Placer County residents can rest assured that scarce resources are efficiently and effectively used to ensure that important transportation projects that meet our community’s transportation needs continue to move forward. For details please visit www.pctpa.org or join the Fix Placer Traffic group on Facebook. Jim Holmes is a member of the Placer County Board of Supervisors where he represents the Third District which includes Auburn, Ophir, Newcastle, Penryn, Loomis and parts of Rocklin. He is also a member of the Placer County Transportation Planning Agency’s Board of Directors.