Royal Gorge road becomes hot topic |

Royal Gorge road becomes hot topic

Seth Lightcap/Sierra SunPlacer County has informed Royal Gorge developers Foster/Syme that they may need to provide a second access road to the Serene Lakes subdivision to meet requirements for their proposed development. Currently the only way in and out of the area is Soda Springs road which can be backed up at this railroad crossing just off Donner Pass road.

Placer County wants a second access to the Serene Lakes area as part of any plans Royal Gorge brings forward for development.

The roughly 600 homes already in the Serene Lakes subdivision currently have one way in and out ” Soda Springs Road. With the potential to add about 950 new units, according to early Royal Gorge estimates, developers Foster/Syme may need to offer another road into the project.

“We’ve expressed this concern from our initial discussion with the property owners,” said Michael Johnson, director of planning for Placer County. “The county has general standards like if the primary access is more than 1,300 feet in length or if there is a significant number of residential units.”

The letter from Johnson to Royal Gorge said Placer County fire officials and Calfire were consulted, and the second access would be needed for the safety of both current and future residents.

“It would be nice to have a second access, we feel a little trapped up here if something happens,” said Ron Kolbe, a Serene Lakes resident.

Congestion already occurs on Soda Springs Road on ski weekends over the winter, Kolbe said.

Mike Livak, project manager for Royal Gorge, said the development team is exploring options for a second access.

Earlier on, Royal Gorge had offered a tunnel or bridge at the railroad tracks on Soda Springs Road to keep traffic flowing as a potential solution, and Livak said they intend to do that whether or not a second access is built.

But the terrain will make coming up with a second route challenging, he said. Lake Van Norden sits on one side of Soda Springs Road, and the slopes of Soda Springs ski resort on the other.

“Almost anywhere we take the road there will be topographical constraints where the new road will have to join Soda Springs,” Livak said. “We have to take a long, hard look at what would constitute a second access.”

Livak said Royal Gorge will also do other things to improve the area in case of an emergency, like potentially widening portions of Soda Springs Road, reducing fuels to reduce fire risk, and other infrastructure improvements.

Johnson said the second access is Placer County staff’s recommendation, and any decision will ultimately be up to the Placer County Board of Supervisors when deciding on the project.

As for when Royal Gorge will submit formal plans for development to the county, Livak said no date has been set.

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