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Highway 65, railroad help build Lincoln

By: Stephanie Dumm News Messenger Reporter
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Editor’s note: This is the second in a three-part series about the Highway 65 Bypass, exploring how it will affect residents, what Lincoln businesses thrived because of Highway 65 traveling through Lincoln and what longtime residents say about the bypass. The opening of the Highway 65 Bypass in late summer or early fall could be the start of another evolution in Lincoln’s history. That’s according to Lincoln City Councilman and Placer County Transportation Planning Agency member Tom Cosgrove, who has been working for 15 years “on the realignment of Highway 65.” “The reason it’s important is I think it’s fairly clear to see that until Highway 65 was realigned, we would never be able to see the kind of benefit in our downtown area to businesses because of the congestion,” Cosgrove said. “We’d never open up opportunities for retail commercial chains like we currently have. Target, Home Depot, TJ Maxx and Ross, all of these are very important to our community.” Businesses were originally drawn to Lincoln because of the railroad, said Lincoln historian and Lincoln Area Archives-Museum co-founder Jerry Logan. “Lincoln was founded in 1859 and was settled when the railroad came through in 1861,” Logan said. “The railroad was the main reason Lincoln was founded. In 1861, the rail arrived and service began between Lincoln and Sacramento, and within a year, three hotels opened.” Businesses from mining towns such as Gold Hill, Fox’s Flat and Virginiatown moved into Lincoln because of the railroad, according to Logan, so they would sell and transport their goods. “Farmers had a place to bring their products to ship,” Logan said. While it could not be determined exactly when Highway 65 was first built, Logan said, the route was a dirt road until being paved in 1915. “In 1913, the speed limit was 8 MPH so you couldn’t go any faster than a horse or buggy could go,” Logan said. “The early version of Highway 65 was 99E.” City Council adopted a resolution calling for freeway status of 99E in June 1963, Logan said, and 99E became Highway 65 in December 1963. “As trucks became popular for hauling, the highway added another dimension,” Logan said. “It added more flexible transport. The railroad couldn’t go scooting out to Hungry Hollow but a truck could.” Lincoln “would have been an island” without the railroad and highway, according to Lincoln Area Archives-Museum executive director Shirley Russell. Highway 65 and the railroad “kept commerce going,” Russell said. “In front of Beermann’s was a scale you could bring your grain on a truck and have it weighed,” Russell said. “Farmers could bring their grain and have it trucked out. They sold their grain at the granaries.” Highway 65 attracted various businesses, Logan and Russell both pointed out. “The highway brought nine gas stations, and in the old days, nine saloons,” Logan said. Russell said truck drivers for businesses such as Gladding, McBean, Sierra Pacific and Lincoln’s two granaries would stop to eat in Lincoln. “There were cafes that trucks would stop at and the cannery, when it was going strong, all of the trucks brought fruit in and out,” Russell said. The cannery Russell was referring to was once located where Flocchini Circle currently is, adjacent to the railroad tracks. Logan said businesses such as Gladding, McBean and the cannery used both the railroad and highway to transport items. “People used both, whatever was most convenient,” Logan said. “They loaded a lot of stuff onto the railroad from trucks. When the cannery needed cans, they probably shipped it by railroad.” Cosgrove also said that “Lincoln formed as a result of the railroad coming through here.” “The city was growing up around an industry that needed access to move the products, and of course the roadway was here but the railroad was the other (mode of transport),” Cosgrove said. When asked what businesses were drawn to Lincoln because of Highway 65, Cosgrove talked about downtown Lincoln. “The downtown businesses are the ones that serve the people who live in the community and those downtown businesses are the ones that are your neighborhood or local businesses,” Cosgrove said. “We used to have a different set of businesses in the downtown area.” Cosgrove said Lincoln used to have new car dealerships, a bowling alley, theater and dry goods stores. “A large number of businesses that, up until the last 10 years, we hadn’t had for a long time,” Cosgrove said. Businesses have chosen to locate along Highway 65 for a reason, Cosgrove said. “Businesses try to locate where people have access to them so it’s a very logical thing for businesses to locate along Highway 65 because that’s where it’s easier to get to them,” Cosgrove said. “There’s sometimes too much of a good thing and that’s what happened along Highway 65 when traffic became so heavy and busy in the mornings and the afternoon.” Lincoln residents sometimes avoid businesses in the downtown area or along Highway 65, according to Cosgrove, because of the traffic congestion. “Early on, it was a road where people located so people could get to them and, over time, it became a heavily traveled route, so heavily traveled that it discouraged local people from coming to the downtown area,” Cosgrove said. “Now we are evolving again to where we’re taking traffic away from the downtown area (because of the bypass) so local people will be more liable to visit downtown area and it feels more comfortable.”