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Bypass opening just a few months away

By: Carol Feineman, Editor
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I, along with several other residents, have discovered a great new road to walk dogs, bike and, at the same time, see picturesque views of Lincoln. While this road will soon be off-limits to pedestrians and bicyclists, that’s OK. It was never meant to be a trail. And I don’t think any of us taking advantage now of the road minds that we will soon have to find a new place to play on. Even though this one offers postcard-quality views of our city’s neighborhoods from a birds-eye view, is clean and smooth to walk, bike or run on. Because it’s the long-awaited Highway 65 bypass. It was proposed almost 40 years ago (in 1973) by Caltrans. The almost 12-mile bypass is from south of Industrial Avenue in Lincoln to north of Riosa Road past Sheridan. The bypass’ draft environmental document was completed in 2003 and construction on Phase 1 began in 2008. Phase 1 includes four lanes (two in each direction) from Industrial Avenue to Nelson Lane and two lanes (one in each direction) from Nelson Road to Riosa Road. Phase Two includes extending the four-lane segment from Nelson Lane to Sheridan. Phase I’s ending will be marked by the bypass opening. That date will be in September, according to Lincoln’s public services director Mark Miller on Monday. Much of the traffic now bottlenecking at intersections along the main thoroughfare through town will be diverted to the bypass. As a result, our main street through town, called Highway 65 or G Street or Lincoln Boulevard, will be pedestrian- and biker-friendly. The bypass should take a third to half of the vehicles currently traveling through Highway 65’s downtown portion, Miller said last year. Daily average traffic on G Street in 2004/2005 was about 37,500 vehicles, according to a city study. The city of Lincoln paid Gruen Gruen + Associates to produce a study in 2010 “to identify strategic marketing, planning and policy-related actions that build upon and enhance the downtown’s strengths, given the anticipated completion of the Highway 65 bypass.” The Gruen Gruen report found downtown’s primary disadvantage was “the high speed, through traffic, especially truck traffic, including lumber aggregate trucks, associated with Highway 65 ...” That report echoes an April 28, 2005 News Messenger article about the bypass eventually being completed. The April 2005 article stated that many residents and business owners in Lincoln “can’t wait until that day finally” arrives. “It’s impacting us terribly already,” Konnie Fritts was quoted in the article about traffic and the parking problems associated with downtown Lincoln. Fritts is the former owner of Sierra Hills Framing on G Street. In the 2005 article, Fritts said traffic along Highway 65, or G Street, as well as construction projects in the downtown area, makes it hard for residents to not only find parking places but also drive vehicles in the area. She said that customers sometimes drive around the block several times before they can find a place to park. Other customers told her they quit trying and came back later. Hopefully, when the bypass opens by next fall, customers will feel welcome visiting stores bordering G Street. The bypass will positively change the way Lincoln looks. There will be less traffic and traffic light cycles will be shortened, thus making it easier for drivers on G Street. Walking and biking downtown will also be easier for those who live near First Street School or Foskett Ranch, for example, because traffic lights won’t stay red for up to five minutes. It’s exciting to consider the “new face” Lincoln will soon have. The bypass is a long time in the making. It is a partnership between the city of Lincoln, Placer County, Caltrans, the Placer County Transportation Planning Agency, the South Placer Regional Transportation Authority and the federal government. The bypass construction is a $325 million investment, with funds mostly coming from state and federal agencies. “It’s our highway and our gas tax dollars coming back to Lincoln,” said Lincoln City Councilman Tom Cosgrove. He has been credited by bypass representatives as being a key player of this project. As for outdoor enthusiasts having temporary fun on the bypass, they will have a new sidewalk/bike/NEV path to play on in the near future, according to Lincoln’s public services director Miller. A new sidewalk and biking/NEV trail will eventually connect from downtown G Street to the Raley’s Shopping Center, Miller said. That will be a great way to stay in shape while walking, biking or checking out nearby stores. Carol Feineman can be reached at carolf@goldcountrymedia.com