267 Bypass, downtown district top town agenda | SierraSun.com

267 Bypass, downtown district top town agenda

The Highway 267 Bypass will top the council’s priority list at tonight’s town council meeting scheduled for 6.

Since Mayor Bob Drake’s recent letter stating the town’s intention to cooperate with Caltrans and its concerns over the closure of the Interstate 80 on and off ramps at the Highway 267 intersection, Caltrans has not responded.

Town Manager Stephen Wright said this has been the routine.

“We keep hearing about end-of-the-week decisions being made and responses issued, but we haven’t seen anything,” he said.

Ed Sylvester, a member of the California Transportation Commission who has been involved with the bypass on the town’s behalf, met with Caltrans at the end of last week, but Wright and the town has not seen any solutions yet.

In addition, town staff met with the Downtown Merchants Committee, who has independently been working to achieve a resolution with the bypass questions.

Possible meeting

“I will be submitting additional information to staff about a possible community meeting to bring all of the stakeholders together,” he said, adding that having unified support for the project would help the town reach viable resolutions.

In October, Caltrans’ District Director Irene Itamura sent a letter to Drake outlining time frames needed to research possible design exceptions to the integration between new and existing on and off ramps.

Caltrans’ plan is to relocate ramps to the new location, one quarter mile east of the existing ramps, but the town, downtown merchants and others are concerned about the implications of these closures.

A recently released traffic study completed by LSC Inc. showed significant impacts to the downtown core and the uncommon three-way stop near the Bridge Street railroad crossing.

“We already have an existing traffic problem downtown,” said downtown business owner Steve Frisch. “If the ramps are closed the potential increase in downtown traffic could be highly detrimental to downtown viability.”

He emphasized that the downtown merchants have supported the bypass all along, but are concerned with the potential for an additional 400+ cars traveling east to west through Commercial Row.

“The need to keep some of the ramps open on Highway 267 is incredibly important,” he said.

Downtown improvements

Also on the agenda are staff reports on the approval of a consultant contract for development of the Downtown Property and Business Improvement District and funding for the movement and placement of the Lincoln Highway Victory eagle monument.

The idea for a PBID came in response to a formal request to the town from the downtown merchants to begin the process of forming an assessment district to fund improvements such as parking, maintenance and sidewalks in the downtown.

Ed Candler, president of the Downtown Merchants Association, said the joint effort of the town and the merchants has made this request a success.

“This is just the beginning of the downtown improvements,” he said. “We will be raising the funds to

support the district.

“There are a lot of people that think the downtown merchants get everything for free. That’s not so and this is one way that we are showing how important improvements in the downtown district are to us and the town.”

Assessments on the downtown property owners will support the downtown improvements.

Establishment of the district requires a process set forth in the California Streets and Highways Code. Due to the complexity of these procedures, Community Development Director Tony Lashbrook will advise the staff he believes it best to have the assistance of consultants with specialized expertise in PBID formation.

“We evaluated several consulting firms and found Citygate to be the best,” Wright said. “We need confirmation from the downtown merchants, but we don’t see this as being a problem because they have been involved with this from the beginning.”

Downtown merchants have agreed to pay half of the $37,750 Citygate contract. The other half of the contract will be paid for by the town with funds specifically budgeted for this purpose.

Another expense to the town is the acquisition and mounting of the Lincoln Highway eagle monument that will find its new home at the downtown depot site. Wright will recommend the council approve $15,000 for the monument’s move, construction a monument base structure, and preparation a plaque to be mounted on the base acknowledging the relocation effort.

Funding will come from excess grant monies given to the town for major road improvements, of which $140,000 was in excess of the town’s original projections.

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