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Council approves change to bypass agreement

By: Cheri March The News Messenger
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For the second meeting in a row, the Lincoln City Council approved a critical agreement in the Highway 65 bypass project. Last week, the California Department of Transportation changed portions of language in a cooperative agreement relinquishing Highway 65 through Lincoln to the city as part of the Highway 65 bypass project. Council members had approved the agreement in January. Caltrans' recent action deleted language putting the burden on the state if hazardous materials were found, said Tim Hayes, an attorney for the city. Though not included in the language, Caltrans will allow the city to examine the property for any hazardous material or contamination before acceptance, Hayes said. Despite Lincoln's initial request to add the item to the Feb. 26 council agenda, Caltrans strongly suggested the city take action on its updated proposal Tuesday. The action is necessary for the $324 million bypass project to proceed. I would have liked to sign on a dotted line, but the letter is as close as they would get, said Councilmember Linda Stackpoole. Councilman Spencer Short agreed the choice was uncomfortable, but necessary. Faith on a few hundred dollars, OK. Faith on $7 million, that makes me feel a little queasy, he said. But I understand we have to go forward with this. Construction on the bypass could begin as soon as June. On a happier note, the council received a favorable evaluation of Lincoln's Neighborhood Electric Vehicle Transportation Plan, adopted in August 2006. Kevan Shafizadeh, a professor of transportation engineering at California State University, Sacramento, served as an unbiased evaluator at the request of the public works department. Shafizadeh, who worked with a student on the evaluation, said he found Lincoln to be a national leader in the area of electric vehicles. A lot of cities propose NEVs, few implant them, and even fewer evaluate them, he said. While evaluating traffic and safety aspects, he discovered no accidents involving neighborhood electric vehicles have occurred in Lincoln. In fact, implementing the vehicles generally leads to decreasing automobile speeds “ a discovery yet to be published in research, he said. Caltrans is increasingly showing interest in neighborhood electric vehicles “ which can be driven on roadways with speed limits of 35 mph or less “ as reducers of greenhouse gases, said Councilmember Tom Cosgrove, who serves on the Lincoln Transit Committee and is a board member of the Placer County Transportation Planning Agency. The city's ultimate challenge will be connecting neighborhood electric vehicle roadways, something a city in Florida has already completed, Cosgrove said. But they took it a step further. They put a NEV in every house built, he said. It's catching on “ I think we've started something here. The city might also wish to address public confusion about the vehicles, Shafizadeh said. You need to continue to educate the public about NEV lanes so people with small vehicles don't think they are for them, he said. In other business, the council approved designs for the new 2,190-square-foot Scout Hall on F Street. While the city-owned assembly hall will be largely used by Boy Scouts, it will also serve other youth and community organizations. I think it turned out very well in terms of attention to detail, orientation, and connectivity, said Mayor Primo Santini. It will help continue to build a downtown for future generations. Though council members praised the project, its cost “ not yet officially determined “ remained a concern. I hope when we budget for the project, it will stay within the budget, Stackpoole said. Next year is going to be a very difficult year for the city. Council members approved creation of a Lincoln Leadership Academy, conditional on the availability of funding. Jill Thompson, the city's public information officer, said the academy would help develop future city leaders and better informed and engaged citizens. Because the Chamber of Commerce is financially unable to manage the program, it would be coordinated by the Volunteer Center. Staff requested the center receive $10,000 for the program. Participants would be charged $250 each. Conceptually, I support this 100 percent. Financially, I think it has to go through the budget process, Stackpoole said. Students would attend a class one day a month for 10 months, starting in September. Council members agreed classes should have at least 15 students, but not exceed 20. “ Cheri March can be reached at cherim@goldcountrymedia.com or comment on this story at www.lincolnnewsmessenger.com.