Caltrans criticized for bypassing county input on I-80 detour | SierraSun.com

Caltrans criticized for bypassing county input on I-80 detour

Laura Brown
Sun news service

NEVADA CITY ” County supervisors gave a public tongue-lashing to a Caltrans representative Tuesday morning, criticizing the agency for starting a major detour without first seeking local input.

Last month, Caltrans began $58.4 million road construction on Interstate 80 known as the Colfax/Gold Run project.

Since then, the agency has diverted truck and bus traffic onto the narrow and winding corridor of Highways 20 and 49 from 7 p.m. to 8 a.m.

Notices of the construction project on Interstate 80 were sent to trucking associations and tourist industries and public media events were held in Auburn and Truckee.

But Nevada County residents were given no opportunity to comment on the project, even though the bulk of detoured truck traffic would congest their roadways for the seven months.

“It was like we were ignored because you could do it,” said Chairman Hank Weston to Caltrans Project Manager Doug Lang.

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“Whatever goodwill you think you have in Nevada County, you’re losing it real fast,” said District 1 Supervisor Nate Beason, who added the detour was impacting the safety of 40,000 to 50,000 people daily.

The speed limit should reduced to avoid a fatality, said Howie Muir, a resident who lives on Stable Lane, about a quarter-mile from the intersection of Highways 20 and 49.

He has observed passing trucks where he stands with his two children waiting for the school bus in the morning.

“There’s a lot of them, and they’re moving with speed,” Muir said.

Caltrans also was unaware of a $5 million road construction project, which will involve heavy equipment entering Washington Road this summer.

“Had all this been discussed in a community meeting, we would probably have had the issues laid out,” Weston said.

Since a big rig ran off the road near Bear Valley on April 8, Caltrans has re-evaluated the detour.

“We did not find any other options that were viable,” said Caltrans Project Manager Doug Lang.

The agency has taken several steps to minimize risks to drivers.

Before entering Highway 20, all trucks and buses must receive a mandatory brake check before being piloted in groups of 10 to 15 to Nevada City, Lang said.

Trucks should be piloted until they are safely beyond the townships of Nevada City and Grass Valley, Weston said.

Fire officials have warned the detour would mean an increase in brake fires, rollovers and possibly multi-casualty accidents.

Weston wondered whether Caltrans was prepared to pay overtime for local emergency responders who were called to a traffic accident or hazardous spill.

Changing the hours of the detour to avoid morning commute traffic on Highway 49 also was suggested by the board.

The road construction project on Interstate 80 will rehabilitate 44 lane miles of torn up pavement, extending the interstate’s lifetime for another 20 years. Work is expected to be complete by October.

It is one of eight projects slated for the artery, with a total price tag of $420 million.

Visit http://www.GetAcross80.com for travel information, project descriptions, e-mail alerts, a live traffic camera and the latest news on the Sierra Repair Projects.

– Supervisors approved a $61,700 contribution to the Fire Safe Council of Nevada County from Forest Reserve Funds to help pay for administration and education costs.

– Supervisors OK’d an ordinance that would allow small sanitation districts to provide funding mechanisms meant to lessen the county’s financial liability if the district decided to be annexed into the county’s sanitation district.