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Highway rehabilitation project has been decades in the making

The front of the Way Station in Greenville provides an example of the need for rehabilitation, with unsafe and uneven sidewalks and lack of proper wheelchair access. Photo by Maggie Wells

Downtown Greenville is in it for the long haul. The Highway 89 Rehabilitation Project is in full swing and the projected completion date has moved from July to fall.

For some in the downtown area, the construction is seen as a spur-of-the-moment intrusion on what has always been. There’s been plenty of talk at neighborhood hangouts of, “If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.” But for those following along at home, the project is not a Johnny-come-lately attempt to have pretty sidewalks and streetscaping, but a decades old process with plenty of opportunity for public input.

Three weeks ago, an independent contractor was called in to assess the corner of Main Street and Hwy 89. There was concern that water tanks and other large vehicles would not be able to make a left turn toward the county barn and that logging trucks would not be able to maneuver turns onto North Valley Road. Proponents of the current Rehabilitation project pointed out that loaded logging trucks don’t normally make turns onto North Valley Road as they are headed instead to the mill.

But the plan, with the backing of a former resident with influence, has now changed the design on the corner of Main and Hwy 89 to accommodate such use. The plan revision will extend construction into the fall. Opponents of the project had hoped an independent assessment would halt construction. Some have also voiced concern that the public was not consulted in the process.

The plan for the Highway 89 Rehabilitation Project is a few hundred pages and addresses the failing infrastructure of over a hundred years of changing building codes, uneven sidewalks, disintegrating pipes and culverts, and poor drainage.

The plan for the project has changed over time, taking into consideration public comments combined with available funding. In 2010, for example then Feather Publishing staff writer Alicia Knadler reported that the project would sport native accent trees along the continuous sidewalks and plenty of bike lanes and parking with a left-turn lane by the high school. She reported on an open community forum night hosted by Caltrans that week in 2010.

In a Caltrans document from July 2010, titled “Greenville Drainage and Streetscape Project,” the purpose of the project was spelled out and made available to the public.

Some of the existing problems addressed in that report included drainage facilities that failed to capture runoff and convey it to its natural drainage and that many areas lack curb and gutter installation. Problems that have not gotten any better in the seven years since the document was compiled. The floods of spring 2017 speak to the need for drainage improvements.

Driving issues were a concern in the 2010 document including intersections with limited sight distance and vehicles, including logging trucks, speeding through downtown.

“The lack of two-way turn lane limits traffic operations and increases delays along the route” was also a concern spelled out in that report, especially in front of the high school.

Finally, it was acknowledged then that none of downtown was ADA compliant and provided minimum mobility for the elderly and wheelchair bound.

The final plan as executed in 2017 seems to be a combination of the three design options listed in the July 2010 document. The roads have had seven years to deteriorate further.

A Regional Transportation Plan dated January 2010 describes the collaboration between the county, its transportation commission, Caltrans, the board of supervisors, the streetscape committee and public comments in addressing factors and concerns of the public and businesses in downtown Greenville.

But the plan didn’t start in 2010. In 2008, a Department of Public Works schedule indicated that ADA consultants would be called in to address the lack of accessibility of much of downtown to wheelchair access.

Also, a side note in the schedule addresses the lack of knowledge anyone at the time had as to the extent of sewer repairs that might be in order.

The Streetscape Committee in a final report in 2008 titled “Greenville Streetscape and Revitalization Plan” makes its recommendations in a document prepared by Integrated Infrastructures. While much of the document addresses beautification (planters, better lighting), the bulk of the recommendations are pragmatic and an obvious attempt to make the streets safer for pedestrians, children and the elderly.

“Cars stack up by the high school and slow down the highway. Kids need to cross the highway safely. We’ve watched elderly women crossing from Hot Springs Road with shopping carts and fast cars whizzing by,” said one streetscape committee member.

“We need better visibility. Safe sidewalks that all people can use. This will encourage movement,” said another.

In October 2001, there was a public workshop where area residents came to give input to Caltrans as to what they’d like to see in downtown Greenville.

In July 2000, a Plumas County Regional Transportation Plan documented the need to fix downtown Greenville as well as other areas of the county and draws up potential costs for each aspect of the project.

For some involved in the project, they remember meetings and public comment since before the 2000s. Each time people have met over the issue the same concerns arise: safety of pedestrians, accessibility for the elderly and disabled, steadier flow of traffic. As time goes by, the drainage and unevenness of the streets have become even bigger issues.

  The project, according to all documents of public record, was a long time coming.

2 thoughts on “Highway rehabilitation project has been decades in the making

  • The story does a good job highlighting that the project was developed over many years with local input. However, I contacted Caltrans and learned that the project has not been delayed or changed.

  • I remember Mike Ayoob cleaning the sidewalk in front of my house, before The Barn and RV parking. No one else bothered to make it safe for pedestrians back then. I’m happy to know things are changing, and I will always hope for the best outcomes!

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