Future of Beckwourth-Genesee Road subject of public meeting
On Wednesday, Feb. 22, a townhall meeting was held at the Portola library to discuss an environmental impact study that had been done on a proposed project affecting a 9-1/2-mile stretch of California Forest Highway 177, the Beckwourth-Genesee Road, and to get public feedback.
This project was initially requested by Plumas County in 2004.
Out of 3,000 miles of California highway, this road was accepted for this project in 2005. An initial townhall meeting was held in November 2005 to introduce the proposal for this project to the community.
It was initially a $50,000 to $60,000 project. Seven years later it is now a $20 million project — $20 million is the entire year’s budget for the Federal Highway Administration.
The proposed improvement of Highway 177 is administered under the Public Lands Highway (PLH) program.
The Forest Highway Program is a category under the PLH program that provides funds for public highways that serve primarily forest-related traffic. These funds are allocated from the Federal Highway Trust Fund and provide up to 100 percent funding for engineering and construction.
This project is a collaboration of the Federal Highway Administration, the U.S. Department of Agriculture Forest Service, the California Department of Transportation (Caltrans) and Plumas County.
What does all this mean to residents of Portola? It means that the proposed project will widen and reinforce the road, making safer access for Forest Service, emergency vehicles, logging trucks and other vehicles to safely pass through that section of the forest.
It means that the road will be safer for tourists on vacation and will actually enhance the ability of tourism being promoted in Portola.
Along with proposed improvement, workers will also be changing the road so that the blind spots and sharp corners will be corrected.
This project had an environmental assessment which was a booklet one-half inch thick with diagrams of proposed improvements to the roads, upgrades, reinforcements, culverts being rerouted or in some cases created and Crocker Creek Bridge being reinforced and upgraded, along with clearing of underbrush and the environmental impact to every animal and bird indigenous to that area.
There are also private lands that are to be bought because they are part of the easement area on the side of the proposed road improvement and that part of the project has also taken time to mitigate.
When this $20 million project is finished, it will make it easier and less expensive for county workers to maintain the road.
Some community members voiced their concerns that if the road was improved and widened, increasing the speed limit from 25 mph to 30 mph, it could be more dangerous for their children at the end of that road leading to Highway 70 as the drivers already go over the speed limit now.
There was a suggestion that they would like to see a stop sign there and the county workers said that they could put one up if someone requested it and it was deemed necessary.
The project will realistically start around 2014 because when everything is mitigated with environmentalists and landowners, etc., and the final OK is given, then they will have to wait to make sure the project is funded through the Legislature. This is a very expensive project that has taken a long time to develop and create but in the long run, it could benefit Plumas County.
Once the project begins, it is projected that it will take approximately two years to complete with one month of re- routing traffic.
Because of weather conditions in Plumas County there are only certain months that workers can operate on this project safely.