Downtown merchants really need our support

By: Carol Feineman, Editor
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Four months ago, I was reprimanded by Caltrans when I wrote about riding bikes and walking on the beautiful but under construction Highway 65 Bypass. That reprimand is removed for four hours only this Friday when the public is invited to walk, bike, skate or rollerblade on 3.7 of the bypass’ 11.7 miles. Then, from Friday night to early Monday morning, Caltrans puts the finishing touches on the bypass before the new roadway opens to vehicles Monday. For four hours, after the bypass grand-opening ceremony Friday, Caltrans encourages Lincoln residents to view the bypass from a pedestrian or cycling point of view. This infrastructure, proposed almost 40 years ago (in 1973) by Caltrans, will change the face of Lincoln. The almost 12-mile bypass is from south of Industrial Avenue in Lincoln to north of Riosa Road in Sheridan. The bypass’ draft environmental document was completed in 2003 and construction on Phase 1 began in August 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 Wise Road. The first phase ends with Friday’s festivities. As they should, city officials and business-owners have made a big deal the last couple of years about the bypass opening. It is a big deal, to the tune of $325 million over a 15-year process. Bypass funds were mostly from state and federal agencies. The bypass 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. “It’s our highway and our gas tax dollars coming back to Lincoln,” said Lincoln City Councilman Tom Cosgrove in May. The big, mostly unspoken, question that now lingers is how downtown businesses will fare after the bypass opens Monday. After all, according to Placer County Transportation Planning Agency Celia McAdam. 40,000 cars daily will be removed from the downtown main artery when the bypass opens. “Everything we’ve heard from the city is intercity traffic is not stopping here,” McAdam said. Daily average traffic on G Street in 2004/2005 was about 37,500 vehicles, according to a city study. Today, McAdams said, 47,500 vehicles a day travel on our main street. The bypass will take the intercity traffic, or 40,000 vehicles a day, out of downtown, according to McAdam. Her figures have a significant decrease of 7,500 cars a day traveling on G Street (to be called Lincoln Boulevard on Oct. 20) when the bypass opens. “The folks who live in Lincoln don’t want to go downtown because of the traffic,” McAdam said. “There are seven stoplights (on G Street). The bypass will take intercity traffic out of Lincoln and they can go faster on the bypass.” Reducing the high volume traffic that doesn’t stop at Lincoln businesses will enable Lincoln’s residents “to go downtown without the congestion,” according to Caltrans Public Information Officer Gilbert Mohtes-Chan. “The times I’ve gone through here, because of the congestion (on G Street),” Mohtes-Chan said. “I just wanted to get out of town. I think of the bypass opening as a rebirth of the town, a renaissance of the downtown.” Almost 10 years ago, a 2-mile bypass was constructed in Truckee. However, there are no statistics a decade later to determine how downtown businesses are doing as a result, according to Truckee representatives. “Folks are still going downtown. But we don’t have the data to back if businesses were helped,” said Truckee Assistant City Manager Alex Terrazas. “Despite our challenges with the local and the international economy, however, folks are still getting downtown.” Downtown Truckee business representatives have different opinions on whether the bypass helped the local economy. “One clear result of the bypass is that a lot of traffic congestion in our historic downtown was alleviated. That was easy to see, a quantifiable result of the bypass,” said Truckee’s public works and engineering director Dan Wilkins. “I don’t have any empirical information on if it hurt or helped business.” Wilkins cited what he calls second-hand information. “What I’ve heard over the years since the bypass went in is mixed opinions by the businesses. Some believe it did hurt them as there is less passerby business,” Wilkins said. “Others say the reduction in congestion was of benefit because, in their opinion, people who wanted to patronize the businesses found it easier to go downtown. They could now have no congestion when going downtown.” I hope you join me on the Lincoln Highway 65 Bypass. We have four hours to play on it before it historically changes the face of Lincoln. More importantly, we need to walk, ride, bike or drive to downtown as much as possible. Our downtown Lincoln businesses need us now, more than ever, to shop locally. Know and Go: What: Grand-opening ceremonies of Highway 65 Lincoln Bypass. Includes an inaugural drive of classic cars and refreshments When: 10 a.m. Friday Where: Highway 65 onramp at Ferrari Ranch Road, Also: Ride bikes, walk, Rollerblade or skateboard on the bypass from noon to 4 p.m. Friday. The bypass will then be closed until opening to vehicular traffic only Monday morning.