267 Bypass negotiations continue | SierraSun.com

267 Bypass negotiations continue

Negotiations are still ongoing between the Town of Truckee and Caltrans regarding ramps at Interstate 80 and Highway 89 after the Highway 267 bypass is complete, but a condition imposed by Caltrans threatens to delay the entire bypass project.

Caltrans has told the town it will have to accept as a town road the stretch of Highway 267 and Highway 89 to be replaced by the bypass before funding will be acquired for the bypass. The agency initially offered the town $100,000 to fund repairs for the road.

A town consultant has estimated that repairs to the stretch of roadway could reach $4 million to bring it up to town standards. Issues include a deteriorating drainage pipe under the railroad tracks and a spring which wells up on Highway 267 near Interstate 80, as well as deteriorating pavement near the 7-Eleven store on Highway 267.

“During December of 1998, Caltrans verbally informed the town staff that if the town did not sign a relinquishment agreement prior to Jan. 13, 1999, Caltrans would not request funding for the Highway 267 Bypass project until a point in time that the relinquishment agreement was executed between both parties,” Town Manager Steve Wright wrote in his report to council Jan. 21.

He said the town expressed its objection to the decision made by Caltrans, and indicated that the town would be willing to sign a relinquishment agreement in which Caltrans would commit to upgrade the existing roadway to a state of good repair prior to relinquishment.

Truckee has a town policy to not accept roads unless they are “revenue neutral” – meaning that tax from homes and businesses along the road should support the maintenance of the road. According to town estimates, the portion to be relinquished would cost the town about $100,000 yearly. Accepting the road would require a special amendment by council.

Town staff met with Caltrans officials on Dec. 30, at which time Caltrans expressed a desire to do some of the maintenance work, but said some of the issues were not state responsibilities. However, they indicated a cash settlement for those problems might be possible.

At the conclusion of that meeting, the Caltrans representatives reiterated their position that the bypass project would not be funded until the relinquishment agreement was signed.

“Subsequent to that time, the town has worked with a consultant who has experience in implementing relinquishment agreements, to assist in identifying existing deficiencies and estimated repair costs, along the sections of roadway proposed for relinquishment,” Wright wrote. “The analysis identified a cost of up to $4 million in repairs necessary to bring the roadways up to a state of good repair. This information was transmitted to Caltrans staff, along with potential strategies for implementing a relinquishment agreement in a timely manner.”

In the council meeting Thursday, Jan. 21, Town Engineer Dan Wilkins said Caltrans appeared to be willing to negotiate on the repairs to the highway.

“I had a discussion with Heidi Sykes (of Caltrans) this afternoon regarding the terms of the relinquishment agreement,” Wilkins said. “Caltrans seems interested in coming to terms with a technical agreement whereby we would accept the relinquishment.” He said the town has identified about a half dozen items for Caltrans to consider, and that it appeared Caltrans was moving toward an agreement based on those items.

“We would still need to work out the details,” Wilkins said. “In general it was positive and looked like Caltrans would play ball on the negotiations end of it.”

Wilkins said Caltrans will next have an opportunity to request funding from the California Transportation Commission for the bypass in March.

Council members expressed outrage that Caltrans would attempt to use the bypass as leverage to get the town to accept the road.

“What they are doing is tantamount to extortion, telling the town it must accept a $4 million cost,” Councilmember Maia Schneider said. “We know there will be no more revenue from this road. Holding us hostage like this is maddening. It is absurd.”

Mayor Josh Susman said he believed Caltrans was tying the relinquishment agreement to the bypass in exchange for the on and off ramps the town has struggled to retain at Highway 89.

“I share your concern with Caltrans, “Councilmember Don McCormack said. “We are dancing with the gorilla, they are picking the music, and they are leading. I am glad Caltrans is being a little more reasonable. If we could agree on terms to resolve the technical difficulties, I believe they will do what they say.”

Positive notes

On Wednesday, Jan. 27, Councilmember Bob Drake, the town representative on the Nevada County Transportation Commission, said it appears negotiations with Caltrans are going well.

“As the council’s transportation representative, I believe we’re close to a settlement,” Drake said. “Negotiations continue at the engineering level and appear to be positive. The will is there and both sides want to make it work.”

Compromise possible

Drake said there are indications Caltrans would be willing to compromise on the relinquishment agreement, and he believed the town would negotiate.

“That $4 million is a total rebuild of the road, and none of us believe that’s necessary,” he said. “Perhaps it would need to be rebuilt at Trout Creek and by the 7-Eleven.”

He said one of the repair issues brought up by the consultant – the drainage under the railroad tracks on Highway 267, would probably be repaired by Union Pacific this summer, when the railroad rebuilds the crossing.

He said Caltrans also had a positive reaction to the latest design for the westbound on-ramp proposed by Wilkins.

The town has been working with Caltrans and the Federal Highway Administration for the past year to resolve regulatory issues and construction standards to retain the eastbound off ramp and westbound on ramp at Highway 89 and Interstate 80 following construction of the bypass.

Caltrans is currently working on a design for the eastbound off-ramp, while town engineers have been reworking the westbound on-ramp to meet Caltrans and FHWA standards.

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