Residents hope for traffic light after head-on collision

Cal Trans looking at number of options for intersection
By: Bridget Jones, Journal Staff Writer
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After an Aug. 19 accident that sent two local residents to the hospital, Lone Star Road residents are wondering why a traffic light hasn’t been installed on their stretch of Grass Valley Highway. Several residents who live off Lone Star in North Auburn discussed their concerns about the lack of a traffic light at the intersection. “Part of it is, I think, money,” said Jack Lowery, a Lone Star resident and friend of one of the victims. “There is no money to do anything, and part of it is the statistics don’t jive with the state guidelines. What they told me is if you put in a stop light, you will have more accidents of another kind.” Lowery said he has spoken to the California Department of Transportation, and the department has told him they will take another look at the area. Dorothy Lowery, Jack Lowery’s wife, said she doesn’t feel safe with the couple’s children having to experience the intersection. “We are adults, which is bad,” she said. “I told my husband we are moving if there isn’t a stop light by the time my kid drives.” Ed Moley, who lives off Lone Star and was injured in the Aug. 19 accident, said the intersection is tricky, because there is no suicide lane, as both middle lanes are left turn lanes onto the two sides of Lone Star. “When we come out of our intersection here, if we want to go left there is no safety lane to go into,” Moley said. “So there is nowhere to go except winding up going into an opposing traffic lane. I think every one of the people who live on Lone Star … those people would wait the 60 seconds (for a traffic signal) knowing they can come out with a green light and make the turn safely.” Moley said high speeds are definitely a factor on the highway, which has a speed limit of 65 at Lone Star. “People do 70-75 (miles per hour) on the highways, and they are certainly doing it here,” he said. Carrie Moley, Ed Moley’s wife, said she can understand why some people wouldn’t want a stop light on that part of the highway because it’s currently an undisturbed drive through the country. “But you are only considering the people passing through,” Carrie Moley said. Carrie Moley said those who are leaving the street sometimes feel pressured to go, even when it might not be the best time in traffic to do so. “If you know you are going to get a light, you don’t get that antsy, ‘I better go for it’ (feeling),” she said. Jack Lowery said he thinks a light that defaults to highway traffic and only changes when there are cars waiting on Lone Star is ideal. Sarah Fisher, who also lives off Lone Star, said she used to take her children to Cottage Hill Elementary School in Grass Valley, but now takes them to Bowman Charter School in Auburn to avoid the left turn lane onto the highway. “There are definitely gaps where you can get across, but it can take 5 minutes to make a left safely in the morning,” Fisher said. “And that is at 7:30, 8 o’clock, primetime for people leaving for work.” Fisher said she believes a traffic light is “long overdue” at the intersection. Grant Adorador, who also lives off Lone Star, said he brought the issue up with Cal Trans eight years ago when he moved to the street, and the result was a flashing yellow light was installed to warn drivers. “Unfortunately Cal Trans would not put in a stop light there,” Adorador said. “They indicated it would cause other problems. “I’m sure (the yellow light) has helped … but it’s still not enough.” A couple of the Lone Star residents said that Cal Trans officials said there had not been enough deaths at the intersection to warrant a light. Mark Dinger, spokesman for Cal Trans, said the department’s traffic engineering division is looking to perform another traffic study at the intersection, and said there are a number of possible options to control traffic there including a stop light, widening the right turn lanes, creating two T intersections and installing pull out U-turn areas north and south of the intersection. “With all that being said, we still have to meet certain warrants to be able to try to put a signal in there,” Dinger said. “There are all sorts of warrants, and every situation is like apples and oranges. We did look at this intersection in 2009 at Mr. Lowery’s request to see if it warranted installing a signal there. At that time we felt it did not. We did traffic counts there. We didn’t have the volume of traffic … to warrant a new signal there. Also, we didn’t have significant accident history there. I really want to stress that we don’t have any signal warrant that is measured in terms of deaths or injuries. We look at every single accident.” Dinger said between April 1, 2005 and March 31, 2010 there were six accidents at that intersection, which is 66 percent below the state average for similar locations. Dinger said if a traffic light was installed, it would cost about $750,000 to $1 million. On Tuesday the department’s Traffic Safety and Traffic Operations divisions are meeting to discuss the intersection and could come to a conclusion about what options they want to study more. A traffic signal is not always the best option, Dinger said. “Whenever we have an identifiable (incident), like an accident or something like that happens that always spurs us to take a closer look at our highway, and just ask the question, ‘How can we make it safer?’” Lowery said Cal Trans officials told him a traffic signal could result in other types of incidents such as fender benders. “For us it’s a trade off between death and life changing wrecks versus a rear-ender,” he said. Reach Bridget Jones at ------------------------------------------------------ It’s unknown whether a teen who allegedly caused a major-injury accident will be charged. The accident occurred at Lone Star Road and Grass Valley Highway slightly before 10 a.m. Aug. 19 when a juvenile driving a white 1994 Acura Integra turned onto Grass Valley Highway toward Auburn from Lone Star Road, causing a black Ford F-150 truck driving south to Auburn to swerve into a blue Honda Odyssey, which was waiting to turn left onto Lone Star. The driver of the Odyssey was returning from dropping off his children at Bowman Charter School and running errands in Auburn. Both the driver of the Odyssey, Ed Moley, 76, of Auburn, and the driver of the truck, Sandy Castle, 60, of Grass Valley were taken to Sutter Roseville Medical Center with major injuries. The driver of the Acura fled the scene. Moley said he is recovering at home with a neck injury that severely limits his activity. Although the Journal could not immediately find out the status of Castle’s health, she has been released from Sutter Roseville, according to Robin Montgomery, spokeswoman for Sutter. The 17-year-old driver of the Acura was identified later that day in San Jose, according to Officer Nico Bonfilio, with the California Highway Patrol office in Newcastle. “We found out the identity and right now we are completing the investigation,” Bonfilio said. “Evidently it was a kid on his way to school in San Jose. We are still going to have to put the case together and determine if he caused the accident. The investigation is ongoing.” Bonfilio said the teen is an Auburn resident and was on his way to college in San Jose. The teen hasn’t been charged yet, and hasn’t been arrested but the Highway Patrol would file a complaint after the investigation is complete, Bonfilio said. Bonfilio said a photograph taken of the teen at the scene of the accident helped officers find him in San Jose. Steve Clemente, owner of Auburn Tattoo Company, snapped the picture. “It was used, and it was the reason why they were able to get him,” Bonfilio said.