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In Focus: County begins drive for state road funds

A truck driver negotiates a turn while crawling through one of the most dangerous sections of U.S. Hwy. 199 near Patrick Creek Lodge. Tight turns and narrow roads discourage some tourists from taking their RVs to the coast, while leading  to a high rate of accidents for those who do make the trip. (Bryant Anderson, The Daily Triplicate).
A truck driver negotiates a turn while crawling through one of the most dangerous sections of U.S. Hwy. 199 near Patrick Creek Lodge. Tight turns and narrow roads discourage some tourists from taking their RVs to the coast, while leading to a high rate of accidents for those who do make the trip. (Bryant Anderson, The Daily Triplicate).

By Cornelia de Bruin

Triplicate staff writer

Tamera Buchanan isn't wasting any time in holding a meeting so Del Norte County officials can prepare themselves to get road funds that the recently passed Proposition 1B will make available.

At issue for the officials is learning what's necessary so they can take a good place in the funding line that's queuing up.

Proposition 1B is also known as the Highway Safety, Traffic Reduction, Air Quality and Port Security Bond Act of 2006.

Its passage Nov. 7 authorized $19.925 billion of state general obligation bonds.

Although Del Norte County won't qualify for much of the money, Buchanan insisted shortly after the election that local officials hold a strategic meeting. She is the director of Del Norte Local Transportation Commission and local liaison between California's northern-most county and Caltrans.

Background information she compiled for members of the Del Norte Local Transportation Commission and its companion Technical Advisory Committee summarizes the reasons they should start working quickly to grab funds the county can get.

No major improvements to the state highway system in Del Norte County have occured during the past 43 years, and none are planned at present.

At the same time, however, "There have been significant changes in our economic base and in the goods movement systems," Buchanan said.

The county, she added, remains "inaccessible" along U.S. Hwys. 101 and 199, and state Hwy. 197 to most commercial goods transportation operations considered standard in other parts of the state.

In addition, this county and Humboldt to its south are the only two counties in the state that can't be accessed through a Surface Transportation Assistant Act-approved route.

The 1982 regulation set truck and trailer standards for a national truck network, and allows longer trucks than the state standard.

It classifies roads through a color-coded system that lists most of Hwy. 199 as "Brown Route," but with "Red Route" sections.

Brown Routes include two-lane expressways and conventional highways with lane widths less than 11 feet and no paved shoulder. Red Routes are a catch-all definition similar to "none-of-the-above" answers in multiple choice tests. They include all roads not classified as other colors.

"There is currently no plan to achieve STAA Route status for goods movement into Del Norte or Humboldt Counties 24 years after the STAA was passed," Buchanan said.

She added no plan is in place to alter Hwy. 101 at Richardson Grove or Hwy. 299 to meet the standards.

At the same time, Buchanan said travel and tourism are top priorities on the county's Comprehensive Economic Development Strategy, "because so much of our community serves as a nature park to California and the nation."

Recent information regarding the travel and tourism industry notes that "our travel and tourism industry markets are primarily along the I-5 corridor from the Rogue Valley in Oregon to Redding, Calif."

Travelers along the corridor, many of whom have motor homes or trucks with trailers, are involved in accidents near the Narrows of Hwy. 199 at a "high" rate, Buchanan said.

"Many will not drive Route 199 at all," she said.

Buchanan also noted that a project report for Hwy. 197 should be finished by July 1. It is expected to put a price tag and set a timeline for bringing the road up to 1982 regulation standards.

Buchanan said that Caltrans does not plan to use State Highway Operation and Protection Program funds to pay for the project.

Funds could be used through the State Transportation Improvement Program, however.

*****

Officials eye additional funding options

Proposition 1B divvies up some of its $19.9 billion in funding throughout the state by using a formula. Other monies are allocated under competitive programs.

Tamera Buchanan, director of Del Norte Local Transportation Commission and liaison officer to Caltrans, said that some local projects might be able to get additional funding.

She detailed some of the funding categories in background information sent to members of the commission and Technical Advisory Committee, who hold a joint meeting Thursday:

•Del Norte County may be able to access funds from $4.5 billion intended for a Corridor Mobility Improvement Account. It is part of a larger, 11-county region. Buchanan said a project in the region impacts travel here.

•About $3.1 billion of the money will go to the California Ports and Trade Infrastructure Account. Although Hwy. 199 is not defined as a "priority region and corridor," it is listed as an important east-west connector linking major corridors in an area that has "no reasonable access to a priority region and corridor.

•Del Norte Local Transportation Commission expects to receive $2.958 million in State Transportation Improvement Program funds. Its STIP fund will grow to $5.627 million when the money is disbursed.

•Del Norte County's Regional Council of Rural Counties will receive $1,809,903, and Crescent City will receive $400,000.

 


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