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Draft Regional Transportation Plan goes to county commission

How easily we get around within the county over the next 5 to 10 years and what condition our roads, bridges, bike paths, airports and pedestrian facilities are likely to be in will be considered Jan. 27 when the Plumas County Transportation Commission hears the final draft of the new 2020 Regional Transportation Plan (RTP).

The 20-year planning document identifies over $301 million in short-range transportation needs in Plumas County and an additional $170 million in long-range needs.

More than 520 projects have been identified in the RTP’s action element, including roadway, bridge, transit, bicycle, pedestrian and aviation projects.

Public gets a look at the RTP

The county’s Public Works Department previewed the transportation plan at a community meeting Jan. 8 in East Quincy.

Senior Environmental Planner Jim Graham from Public Works was on hand to take questions following an overview by Chico’s Green Dot Transportation President and Principal Transportation Planner Jeff Schwein whose firm prepared the 135-page document.

Plumas County’s population is not expected to increase significantly between now and 2040, so the focus of the RTP is on maintaining the existing transportation network and increasing safety, efficiency and convenience in the region.

“The majority of the projects listed in the RTP are for different levels of road maintenance, resurfacing, repairs and rehabilitation,” Graham said, noting that most of the funding will come from federal highway project dollars and gas tax monies.

Some funding may also come from joint coordination with Caltrans as that agency considers its own projects, such as road improvements that might impact the shoulder or curb area of a Plumas County road, for example.

“We’ll be looking for funding sources like shared Caltrans projects and grants,” Graham said.

He also remarked that the California State Legislature’s passage of Senate Bill 1 (SB 1), the Road Repair and Accountability Act of 2017, “has really helped out public works for roads (here and statewide).”

Schwein explained he “felt pretty good” predicting sources of funding would be available for Plumas County projects to be built over the next 10 years. He said the plan focuses on aligning needed projects with available funding, local policies and planning needs and decisions.

Graham added the main new projects in the plan are for bicycling and pedestrian needs, such as bike lanes, that come from the county’s active transportation plan adopted two years ago.

Looking to the years ahead

According to Schwein’s firm, the new final draft RTP serves as a planning blueprint to guide transportation investments in Plumas County involving local, state and federal funding over the next two decades.

Regional transportation plans are considered to be “living documents.” As such, they are required to be updated every five years in order for counties to be eligible for many sources of funding, he observed.

“Any project wanting funding has to be included in this plan,” Schwein said, adding that the RTP document has been 12 months in the making.

The draft final RTP “recalibrates the region’s needs based on the evolving demographic, political, economic and environmental context” of Plumas County, the report states.

Further public questions and comments will be accepted now through Jan. 27 when the transportation commission considers approval, under an informal extension to give people more time to review the regional plan.

Why planning matters

Attendance was light at the Jan. 8 preview meeting. Transportation planning should be of interest to local communities because it’s about defining future policies, goals, investments and designs to prepare for future needs to move people and goods to destinations.

Plumas County’s draft regional transportation planning summary was developed through a collaborative process between the county’s transportation commission, the city of Portola, Caltrans, tribal governments, the public and various state, federal, regional and local partners.

Stakeholders and public input

The transportation plan project featured an extensive public participation effort and considered input from over 40 stakeholders.

Included were leaders from business, law enforcement, schools, government, recreation, forestry, natural resources, conservation, railroads, state parks and tribes both inside and outside the county.

Green Dot also held community outreach workshops to elicit public input in 2019.

The plan was publicized with an engagement-oriented website, questionnaires and advertising with Plumasnews.com and its four community newspapers.

The resulting community input section of the regional transportation plan contains an interesting cross section of comments.

Potholes and road conditions topped the concerns at 62 percent, lack of bicycle and pedestrian facilities tied at 50 percent, with speeding and reckless or inattentive driving. Tourists who drive badly closed out the list at 12 percent.

On a more positive note, asked what they would like to see more of, 85 percent of respondents said they would appreciate more bike lanes, bike paths and walking and biking connections. Crosswalks, pedestrian paths and wider roadway shoulders all tied at 42 percent. Bike racks registered at 28 percent and passing lanes came in at 14 percent.

Pretty much every community in the county wants more bicycle and pedestrian facilities. Better transit connections to Chico, Reno and Susanville were also requested.

Planning benefits everyone

Schwein handed out education materials that showed regional transportation planning benefits everyone in the county.

For example, road maintenance, bridge repairs and other projects affect businesses, schools, visitors, local workers and many others.

Schwein’s statistics showed Plumas County’s commuters aged 16 and over get to their jobs by the following means:

Car (88 percent)

– Work from home (5.7 percent)

– Walk (3.1 percent)

– Motorcycle or taxi (1.5 percent)

– Bicycle (0.8 percent)

– Public transit (0.1 percent)

The plan addresses a wide range of considerations, including “eco-region stressors” like fire suppression, climate change and potential impacts to resources, livestock and housing, among many others.

Environmental oversight and conservation of various species is also discussed in the wildlife action section. Each project will be required to pass its own CEQA (California Environmental Quality Act) review at the time of approval.

An important investment Investing in our transportation infrastructure improves:

– Safety (decreasing traffic injuries).

– Accessibility (to employment, education, medical resources and transit).

– Multi-modal uses (bicycles, pedestrians and others needing separated paths, shared travel routes, sidewalks, bicycle parking, transit amenities, mobility centers, street furniture and signage).

Growth management (reducing air pollution by protecting open spaces).

– Local support (for businesses, the rural economy, recreational opportunities and quality of life).

Overall, the updated 2020 RTP maintains and improves the quality of life for residents and visitors to Plumas County by guiding the development of a balanced transportation system.

Comment period extended

Plumas County Transportation Commission Meeting

10 a.m., Monday, Jan. 27

Public Works Conference Room

1834 East Main Street

Quincy

Public comments and questions on Plumas County’s final draft 2020 Regional Transportation Plan are welcome through Jan. 27 when the plan will be presented to the Plumas County Transportation Commission, which is scheduled to adopt the document.

For more information, contact Jim Graham at 283-6169 or visit www.PlumasRegionalPlan.com.

What the RTP considers

Components that make up Plumas County’s entire transportation network include:

_ State highways

_ Local roadways

– Access to recreational areas

– Bike paths

– Pedestrian facilities

– Public transit

– Movement of goods

– Intelligent Transportation Systems

– Aviation

– Wayfinding (planning routes)

Available for review online

Plumas County Regional Transportation Plan

Most Regional Transportation Plans are large, clunky documents. The Plumas County Transportation Commission took a progressive approach and developed an online document that is both interactive and user-friendly.

Download a PDF or try the web-based experience at: plumasregionaltransportation.com/

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