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Angry residents protest road closure

By: Brandon Darnell, News Messenger Reporter
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Saying they are being cut off from their own town, about 150 angry Lincoln residents leveled questions and accusations at city officials over the closure of Moore Road Thursday night. City officials, however, said the decision to close Moore Road is from Caltrans. The residents, from the Red Hawk and Hawk’s Landing subdivisions, will have their main route into town severed April 13, and they assembled to protest that closure. “We don’t have the main road to our homes open,” said nearby resident Jeremy Robinson, who came out looking for answers. Nearby resident Bill Lyons set up the place and time and provided a megaphone, but he said the organization of the meeting involved the whole community. “There’s a lot of misinformation out there,” said City Manager Jim Estep when he addressed the crowd at the segment of Moore Road that will be obliterated to make way for the Highway 65 bypass. “This is not a city project. This is a Caltrans project that ran right through our city.” The plan, Estep said, was to have Sorrento Parkway completed before the bypass construction caused the closure of Moore Road, but that it was to be built using developer funds, and the fall of the housing market meant those funds haven’t materialized. Current plans, however, call for the construction of Sorrento Parkway to start by April 13 at the latest, with a scheduled completion date of six-eight weeks, Estep said. Estep’s explanation drew a barrage of questions ranging from how children are supposed to get to school to the response times for emergency vehicles. Mayor Spencer Short explained that an emergency vehicle access road is being built to hasten response times. In response to questions, Short said the road will not be open to any other traffic, since it does not meet the requirements. “We originally anticipated having Sorrento Parkway in and functioning over a year ago,” Short said. City officials were notified by Caltrans Tuesday that the road would be closed April 13, according to Jill Thompson, Lincoln’s spokeswoman. “This is the second time they’ve kind of notified us on the fly,” Short said. Representatives from Caltrans were not at the meeting, but spokeswoman Kari Ehrman told the News Messenger that Moore Road was scheduled to close in January, but it was put off as a courtesy to the city due to the incompletion of Sorrento Parkway. Ehrman said that despite the wishes of residents to postpone the construction until the completion of Sorrento Parkway, that would delay the project, as the bridges – of which there are 19 in total for the 11.7-mile bypass project – must be built sequentially. “Every bridge we’re building is dependant on the one before it,” Ehrman said. The creeks and ravines the road must cross are salmon habitats, and Ehrman said all bridge construction must be done between June and December. In an effort to stop the project until Sorrento Parkway is completed, resident Bill Villanueva said he spoke to law firms and was told the residents can petition for a temporary restraining order against the project – an announcement that was met with enthusiasm by the crowd. Short cautioned against that action, saying it would increase the cost of the project and damage the relationship between the city and Caltrans. With Moore Road closed, residents will have to travel around the construction, and Estep said that will result in an additional 10 minutes in travel time over a four- to six-mile longer route. Fire Chief Dave Whitt estimated the current response time for emergency vehicles at three minutes. With Moore Road closed, he estimated response times at six and a half minutes, but five minutes when the emergency vehicle route is completed. Short said that construction on the route should be completed in about a week. To enable students to get to school while Sorrento Parkway is built, Western Placer Unified School District Superintendent Scott Leaman told the News Messenger free bus passes will be given to students living in the area. “Scott Leamaan rocks,” shouted resident Keela Hassell during the meeting, spreading the word about the bus passes. “Leaman is a good guy.” Hassell said she is most concerned with the safety of the children, and that it would cost her $500 for bus passes, so she appreciates Leaman’s move. “It seems like the city is doing everything they can to help us,” Lyons said. Other residents didn’t agree. Karrie Rawdon, who lives nearby, said she felt the city wasn’t taking any responsibility and was “washing their hands of it.” Daniel Browning, another nearby resident, said he thinks it all comes down to money, but appreciates the city working to get Sorrento Parkway built. When a resident asked Estep how they can help, he replied, “by staying on top of us.” Other residents in the crowd refused to help, saying they had paid their tax dollars already. “We’re going to go as hard as we can to get (Sorrento Parkway) completed,” Short said. “They’re going to be put out, and we’re very sorry for that.” Brandon Darnell can be reached by e-mail at brandond@goldcountrymedia.com.