Could logging trucks avoid downtown?

Closing railroad crossing could help fund new route
By: Stephanie Dumm News Messenger Reporter
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While logging trucks traveling on Highways 193 and 65 will be a part of downtown Lincoln’s atmosphere once the bypass opens this summer, that might not be the case in the future. During the summer, “a couple hundred” logging trucks travel through the city each day, according to Mark Luster, Sierra Pacific Industries spokesman, on Friday. That’s because alternate routes for the logging trucks don’t currently exist, according to Sierra Pacific and city representatives. “There were no off ramps designed into the bypass that would reroute truck traffic,” Luster said. “There was talk about Gladding Parkway, which would have been able to bypass Lincoln and is different than the bypass.” Luster said Sierra Pacific would be “flexible” to alternate routes if they became available. “For us, it’s not a big issue for us to make minor changes,” Luster said. “We are dependent on the infrastructure to get our trucks to the sawmill. If they gave us infrastructure that is acceptable to the community, we are pretty flexible.” The sawmill, at the north end of Lincoln and just north of Gladding Road, has been there since 1980, according to Luster. An alternate route for the logging trucks, which come down Highway 193 and then go northbound on Highway 65, isn’t available because “currently the infrastructure doesn’t exist for us to go a different way,” Luster said. Luster also said that alternative routes would have to be “agreeable to the community and be safe.” Pete Santina, a retired city engineer who resides in Lincoln, suggested the trucks take Highway 80 to Highway 65, and then drive on the bypass and “come back in on any of the roads available.” “It may be a little inconvenient but that’s an alternate route,” Santina said. One of the exits is Wise Road, which would mean the trucks would have to cross railroad tracks to turn right onto Highway 65. “If they stop before the tracks, once they decide to go they would have to run a stop sign to get a running start,” Luster said. “It’s unsafe because of the railroad tracks.” City Manager Jim Estep said, on Friday, that the city has “not found any good solutions” for rerouting the trucks, which city staff have been talking about “off and on probably for the past month or two.” As far as Gladding Parkway is concerned, Estep said, the city does not have the funding to complete that project. “We would need development and we don’t have any funding for that,” Estep said. Estep said Gladding Parkway was not planned to reroute logging trucks but “for circulation of our own traffic.” Mayor Spencer Short also said on Friday that “there is no current alternate route that would be easier, more economical or safer.” However, Short presented an option to obtain funding for Gladding Parkway during Tuesday night’s City Council meeting. Short asked city staff to “investigate closing the 6th Street railroad crossing” during the City Council meeting. Closing that railroad crossing could potentially result in $20 million from Union Pacific and the California Public Utilities Commission. Those funds, Short said, could be used to construct Gladding Parkway, which would take traffic from East Avenue around Gladding, McBean and connect with Gladding Road. That would remove much of the truck traffic from downtown streets. Councilman Stan Nader said he would “agree” with closing the railroad crossing if it brought in “enough money to do a portion of the parkway.” “It would help with getting truck traffic out of downtown,” Nader said. Other expenses from the trucks Santina also questioned how the city would pay for potholes and other damage created by the logging trucks. That’s because once the bypass is completed, Highway 65 will be relinquished to the city from Caltrans. “Heavy loads on trucks create far more damage than cars,” Santina said. “If trucks are continuing to use the city streets, the taxpayers of Lincoln are going to be responsible for maintaining and repairing the damage the trucks will cause.” Estep said that Caltrans repaved Highway 65 one year ago, which he said “was part of the relinquishment agreement.” “As part of the relinquishment agreement, Caltrans will be giving us $1 million to cover improvements to G Street to make it less of a highway and more of a local street, and for maintenance,” Estep said. “After the million dollars, it will be paid for out of gas tax like all of the other streets.” Estep also said that the logging trucks “aren’t creating the potholes.” “The heavy traffic is creating the potholes,” Estep said. Estep said the logging trucks are a “small percentage of the traffic that travels on Highway 65.” “They’ve been coming this direction for a very, very long time so it’s nothing new,” Estep said. “Sierra Pacific is a very big employer for the city, and a number of residents work there. It’s part of our economy, and we need to think of it as that way as well.” Santina said the “whole idea of the bypass is to bypass downtown.” “Downtown can be a quiet, pedestrian-oriented downtown,” Santina said. Terry Dorsey, another Lincoln resident and owner of downtown business Dorsey Capital Management, wants the logging trucks rerouted from Highway 65. Dorsey said $325 million has been spent to construct the bypass. “I don’t believe they spent that kind of money to have logging trucks go down the main business street of old town Lincoln,” Dorsey said. “I can understand that, while up to now, the logging trucks have gone the route of Highway 193 to McBean Park Drive to G Street to the plant because nothing else was available. In a few months, the bypass will be finished and there are two exits off of the road that the trucks can use.” Dorsey said the trucks could use the Nelson Road or Wise Road exits. The removal of logging trucks from Highway 65, or G Street, is important to Lincoln’s future, according to Dorsey. “We believe with the bypass, old town Lincoln can flourish in the coming years and rival or surpass Nevada City, Grass Valley or old town Auburn,” Dorsey said. “If the logging trucks continue to go right down the middle of the business district, the chances for this growth are diminished and the $325 million of the taxpayers’ money has been wasted.” This is because some shoppers choose not to come downtown because of the traffic, including the logging trucks, according to Dorsey. The News Messenger asked a number of downtown businesses to see if the logging trucks affect their businesses. Kim Strong, who co-owns Kim’s Country Kitchen with husband Dennis, said the logging trucks do not affect her business. “Even though I didn’t grow up here, I’ve been here for 26 years, and I think the logging trucks have been a part of Lincoln,” Strong said. “Why should the logging trucks have to go around? The mill is a big part of the working industry in Lincoln.” Strong said many of the employees shop downtown and eat at her restaurant. “I don’t think the logging trucks are the issue,” Strong said. “What I observe is not the trucks, it’s the speeders.” But Dennis Strong, Kim Strong’s husband and co-owner of Kim’s Country Kitchen, had a different opinion. “The logging trucks are going to be a detriment to downtown,” Dennis Strong said. “The whole idea is to get traffic out of downtown,” Dennis Strong said. “It makes no sense to reroute the traffic and leave the trucks.” Kim Strong said her customers are “intimidated by the parallel parking” along G Street, because traffic doesn’t slow down to allow them to park, or drive around cars trying to park into the other lane. Terri Friebel, who co-owns The Old Carrousel with Jill Dewitt, said she sees more commuter traffic and commercial big rigs than logging trucks. “The bigger trucks will use the bypass,” Friebel said. “The logging trucks don’t make that big of a difference to me.” Friebel also mentioned traffic as more of a concern than the logging trucks, and pointed out that “the mill has been here longer than we have.” “I don’t hear people nagging about the trucks, it’s about the traffic and the parking,” Friebel said. “They can’t find parking.” Mr. Pickles owner Pam Lopez said she “doesn’t think they affect” her business, but rerouting the trucks could make “downtown more walkable.” Lopez also recognizes that Sierra Pacific is “an important part of the business community.” “They’re another business in town, and we are glad Sierra Pacific is here,” Lopez said. “They are part of the tax revenue here, and employ a lot of people. They bring business to downtown, and these people eat and shop in our shops.”