Caltrans awards sustainable communities grant for Chester’s Main Street

The Caltrans Division of Transportation Planning is awarding a Sustainable Communities planning grant to the Plumas County Transportation Commission for Chester’s Main Street.  The grant title is “State Route 36 Chester Complete Streets and Context Sensitive Streetscape Plan.”

For the past three years, a team that includes Almanor Recreation and Park District (ARPD), Lake Almanor Area Chamber of Commerce (LAACC), and Chester Public Utility District (CPUD) has supported the Plumas County Transportation Commission (PCTC) in applying for this highly competitive, statewide Sustainable Communities Grant. Several other Chester groups wrote letters of support showing the strong backing of our community to secure such a grant.

Caltrans is continuously making capital pavement improvements to sections of its highway system.  These range from major pavement rehabilitation to minor installations of safety elements. As a Caltrans project is planned, it eventually becomes listed in the Caltrans “Ten Year Book.”

Chester’s Main Street is now in the “Book” to begin a 2028 pavement overlay project. Formal planning for this will begin in 2024.  The work will extend along Highway 36 from Highway 89 to Melissa Avenue, but only for paving in the Caltrans right of way of Main Street.

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But what if a community wants more than a pavement overlay. What if the Chester community wants safety improvements, sidewalks, bike lanes and landscaping? Think Greenville, our neighbor to the southeast.  Well, that takes some pre-planning well in advance of construction and it takes extra money both for planning and to pay for these additional desires, again well in advance of construction.

In 2009, a plan for Chester Main Street improvements was created using a grant and a great deal of discussion, input, and hard work from the community.  But at the time there was no plan by Caltrans to come to Chester for a sizable improvement project and no money was available for detailed improvement plans nor for construction.  And as time has gone by, these old plans do not contain the latest standards and design features that are currently required.

The new grant allows the PCTC to select a consultant to create a detailed concept plan to add Chester Main Street features to improve traffic safety and efficiency, increase walking and biking mobility, and include a concept for landscaping and street furniture. This concept plan will be completed in early 2024, allowing early solicitation of strong input from the community, and creating cost estimates for the various feature categories.  Detailed estimates will allow Caltrans to potentially identify funding for these categories in advance of their planned 2028 pavement overlay project such that all funded work can be built at the same time.

Caltrans and the California Transportation Commission, the group responsible for programming and allocating funds for the construction of highway improvements, are very supportive of creating “complete streets” and “active transportation” features in rural communities.   These features allow reduction of greenhouse gas generation by promoting less vehicle travel and adding landscaping to sequester CO2.  At this time, the added features may not be funded in total, but the timing allows all parties to plan and identify needed funds from a variety of sources before paving begins.

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ARPD, LAACC, and CPUD will continue to support PCTC during the concept planning by encouraging their memberships to turn out at outreach events to have their voices heard on desired improvements and safety features to be added to the concept plan.  The 2009 Chester Main Street Design Plan will form a basis for such features and a tool for educating the public as to what may be possible.  These local groups will conduct information briefings and “pop-up” sessions in front of popular local venues to gather opinions, suggestions, and “design” ideas, compile them, and be a resource to PCTC and its consultant as to what the community needs and prefers.  Our community recognizes that the recent Greenville Street improvements were quite positive and now Chester can plan positive changes to its Main Street.