It's all in a name

Diana Jorgenson
Portola Reporter

The city of Portola has demonstrated an ongoing concern about notifying traffic along Highway 70 that there is more to the town on the other side of the Feather River across the Gulling Street Bridge.

In the past, the city established a wayfinding sign on the corner of Gulling Street and Sierra Street (Highway 70) directing traffic to Old Town, as the business district along Commercial Street is called.

The problem was that locating the sign on the corner required its placement on private property and the good auspices of the business owner. If the owner had a use for the spot, the city's sign became inconvenient.

Currently, the city's wayfinding sign is at the onset of the bridge, which means that the driver already made the turn off and knew where Old Town was located without being told.

The other viable alternative was to hang a sign below the lights on the intersection, just as Reno cross streets are marked directly overhead. A sign like that requires Caltrans' approval and implementation.


Caltrans is notoriously narrow minded about the signs it allows on the state's highways. When it comes to signage for towns and cities, it prefers only one at the entrance and again at the exit, and the agency prefers that it be green.

Other signs are strictly monitored, and signs such as Portola used to have that list the churches and service clubs in the town are no longer allowed.

The Caltrans' perspective is that if the sign is there and has been there, it stays; but if the sign requires repair or if it falls down, it stays down.

The city, which would like to replace the sign listing churches and service clubs, has presented design after design of potential add-ons to the stone monuments currently at the city's boundaries on Highway 70, and they have been repeatedly rejected or discouraged by Caltrans.

Along the same track, the city has, on more than one occasion, requested Caltrans post a sign directing traffic into Portola's downtown at the bridge intersection be placed under the traffic lights, and Caltrans has repeatedly said no: The only signs that may be hung from center traffic lights are those naming cross streets.

Fine, then. How about naming the street Old Town? That, it would appear, seems just fine to Caltrans. You just have to speak the language.

City Clerk Leslie Tigan reported that changing the name of the two-block section (one block on each end of the bridge) of road that includes the bridge turns out to be a relatively simple matter. The city council must pass a resolution and it is so.

There are no businesses that have addresses along that section and there would be little impact to businesses, other than reviewing the wording of directions they might include on websites or brochures.

The matter was discussed at the last city council meeting and the consensus of the council members and staff was to complete the process for the name change.

The exact wording and spelling only needed finalization. Two possible variations have been suggested, "Old Town" or "Old Towne."

The matter will come up for vote at a future city council meeting.


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