Looking to slow Smith R. traffic

By Jessica Cejnar, The Triplicate December 14, 2012 06:24 pm

Smith River Rancheria officials hope to team up with the county on two road projects designed to increase pedestrian and motorist safety.

Terry Supahan, a consultant for the rancheria, and representatives of GHD Engineering of Eureka gave the Del Norte County Board of Supervisors an update of the two projects on Tuesday. They include safety improvements on North and South Indian Road, as well as along U.S. Highway 101. 

The tribe wasn’t asking the board to take formal action, Supahan said, but he asked supervisors to direct staff to work with the tribe on developing and implementing the projects. Teaming up with the county would allow the rancheria to bring both projects through the permitting stage sooner, Supahan said.

“We hope to come back next month and hammer out details and specifics in a memorandum of understanding between the tribe and Del Norte County,” Supahan said.

He added that the tribe will also conduct a public meeting next month.

 The Highway 101 project is being funded by a $2.5 million grant from the U.S. Department of Transportation’s Tiger III program, according to Josh Wolf, a representative with GHD Engineering. 

The highway safety improvements will include optical speed bars, shoulder delineators, colorized shoulders and bike lanes, said Ron Holmlund, a transportation planner for GHD Engineering. Radar feedback signs will tell motorists what speed they’re going and remind them of the posted limit. The project will also include the installation of gateway monuments in the rancheria area and in the town of Smith River, as well as decorative lighting, Holmlund said. 

The intent of the project is to encourage drivers coming from the north to slow down when they enter the rancheria, allow them to speed up in the central portion, which is mostly agricultural, and slow down again when they enter Smith River, Holmlund said.

“With a maximum budget of $2.5 million, the elements we propose cannot exceed that (amount),” he said. “Given the timeline of the project and its location in the coastal zone it has to have minimum or no environmental impacts.”

Wolf said environmental studies need to be complete by the end of March. The design work must be completed by the end of May and the Federal Highways Administration as well as Caltrans must approve the project by June. Construction is scheduled for the spring or summer of 2014, Wolf said.

“The Tiger project is a culmination of years of work by the rancheria and other groups,” he said, adding that the other agencies involved include the Federal Highway Administration and Caltrans.

Del Norte County will be issuing a coastal grading permit for the project, Wolf said.

The county will also need to issue a coastal grading permit for the project affecting North and South Indian Road, Holmlund said. 

Improvements include installing curbs, gutters and sidewalks on North Indian Road east of Highway 101, adding speed humps on North and South Indian Road and putting in a pedestrian walkway and a landscape strip on the west side of South Indian Road. The project also includes adding pedestrian lighting at crosswalks and intersections, adding drainage improvements and retaining walls as well as repaving driveway aprons and repaving the road and adding new signs.

Smith River Rancheria received the Tiger III grant in December 2011. Tiger III grants benefitted 46 other capital projects nationwide that year, including three in California, but the rancheria was the only tribe awarded a grant, Wolf said.

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