Voters could pave way to smooth commutes
Long dreamed of road construction projects in Sutter and Yuba counties could come to fruition with voters' support.
Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger's Strategic Growth Plan includes a means of funding a four-lane Highway 70 from Marysville to Oroville.
The plan, presented last week, also calls for widening the Feather River overpass on Highway 99 near Nicolaus, and converting the three stoplight-controlled intersections on Highways 99 at Elverta Road, Riego Road and Highway 70.
Widening the 25-mile Marysville-Oroville stretch of Highway 70 will cost $70 million.
It will take another $47 million to build an additional two-lanes over the Feather River and add two lanes to Highway 99 leading on and off the overpass.
Yanking out the two sets of stoplights where Highway 99 intersects Elverta and Riego roads would cost $30 million. Those intersections would become interchanges.
“It's really necessary for the growth we've experienced,” said Jeff Larson, a California Highway Patrol spokesman.
Of the 212 collisions on Highway 70 last year, 55 occurred on the stretch between Marysville and Oroville. Thirty-seven people were injured and one person died.
Speeding and unsafe passing are speculated causes of many of those accidents, Larson said. Only six were connected to driving while under the influence of drugs or alcohol.
“It's been a long time coming,” Larson added.
Last year's collision statistics are not unusual. In 2004, there were 213 collisions on Highway 70. This year is shaping up to be equally dangerous. There have been five collisions on Highway 70 in the first 11 days of 2006.
“We believe widening would decrease those collisions. We've already seen a decrease (in collisions) on 70 where it was widened near Plumas Lake,” Larson said.
When combined with other work that is already scheduled, the widenings would make Highway 70 four lanes from Oroville south to Interstate 5, and Highway 99 four lanes from Yuba City south to Interstate 5.
The projects' primary funding would come from $6 billion transportation bond measures this year and in 2008. The first measure would fund planning. The second would finance construction.
Though it has been long discussed, the Highway 70 project's price tag has kept it on the shelf. In the summer of 2003, work on Highways 70 and 99 in the Mid-Valley nearly halted as Caltrans ran out of money.
Should the bond measure pass, the Highway 99 projects will likely be finished 15 years ahead of schedule, according to Pete Hathaway, director of transportation planning for the Sacramento Area Council of Governments.
“It would make things possible that we hadn't even planned,” he added.
Appeal-Democrat reporter Eve Hightower can be reached at 749-4724. You may e-mail her at firstname.lastname@example.org.