Leaving a Legacy
Tom Cosgrove’s role in making the Lincoln Bypass a reality cannot be underestimated. In transportation, you don't build a $325 million project in a rural county without a political champion, and in the case of the Bypass, that was Tom Cosgrove.
Dating back to 1998, when the Placer County Transportation Planning Agency (PCTPA) Board was prioritizing what would be the next big project to take on, Tom got the Lincoln City Council to pledge $1M as matching money to get the project to the top of the list. Ultimately, that promise was primarily fulfilled with "in kind" contributions of fill material for the Lincoln Boulevard Interchange from the waste water treatment plan. A real win-win.
Tom was one of the only elected officials I have ever known or even heard of that wanted to go to virtually any meeting to further the progress of the Lincoln Bypass. Technical meetings with rooms full of engineers. Regulatory meetings with environmental specialists. Meetings with potential funders like the California Transportation Commission. You name it.
But rather than bring him in on every meeting, we ended up using Tom as our secret weapon because there are things that elected officials can do and say that are far more effective than comments coming from staff. For example, there were occasions when, in the face of a regulatory logjam, Tom would threaten political action, while we on the staff seeming to hold him back and try for the reasonable progress. Mostly it worked. A couple of times, we really did have to go to political action, even getting then Congressman Doolittle involved.
Tom also became the face of the Lincoln Bypass with the community. We spoke constantly on the project, maybe not daily but close to it, so he could share all the latest information, whether it be at a City Council meeting, at a Chamber get-together or when running into citizens on the street.
As for what Tom was like to work with, I'll share this. When I first worked with Tom, he was a firebrand, willing - maybe even eager - to take on a fight to push things forward. He may have ruffled a few feathers. Over time, I saw him become more statesmanlike and strategic in his dealings, which was likely more effective in the long run.
But firebrand or statesman, he never lost his passion to get things done. And the Lincoln Bypass is proof of that.
Let me also add a tribute to Karen Cosgrove. That wonderful woman, so devoted to Tom, went to more meetings, sat through more presentations than I can remember, and generally knew as much about the Bypass as any of the team. Not many people have a mate that is not only supportive in theory but also in person, to show up time after time through events both fascinating and interminably dull. Tom was so very lucky to have her.
My favorite memory of working with Tom was when we opened the Lincoln Bypass. Not at the big community celebration and parade, though that was great too. It was actually about a day and a half later, after the final transition work and signage was all finished, and all the detours were being picked up, and they were allowing the very first cars to drive on the Bypass. The construction guys told us to be out there at 2 a.m. on Sunday, Oct. 8, but they weren’t quite ready. So Tom and I went to the only place open at that hour, Thunder Valley, and drank coffee and ate pastry for a couple of hours and talked about what the Lincoln Bypass meant to our lives, to the community. Then the call came and we hurried over to the deserted roadway. With the CHP in the lead, Tom and I drove side by side as the first cars on the now open Bypass.
The Lincoln Bypass was a career project that became a true mission for both of us, and it means a lot to me to share the journey with Tom.
Placer County Transportation Planning Agency also did a tribute to Tom when he retired from the City Council and the planning agency in 2012.
Celia McAdam is executive director of the Placer County Transportation Planning Agency.