Hundreds enjoy bypass grand opening ceremony

By: Patty McAlpinLincoln News Messenger Reporter
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Horns honked. People waved at each other. Cameras flashed. Engines revved. No. Lincoln isn’t home to NASCAR racing. But Lincoln is home to the longest stretch of freeway built in California in the last 10 years and Lincolnites couldn’t wait to drive, walk, skateboard and ride bicycles on the roadway before the highway opens Monday morning (Oct. 8). In his grand opening ceremony remarks Oct. 5, Caltrans Director Malcolm Dougherty said the 11.7 mile Lincoln Bypass is the longest stretch of new highway built in the last 10 years and “we’re not done. Two lanes need to be added from Nelson to Wise Road and ultimately will be four lanes to Sheridan.” “This highway will improve mobility and stimulate economic development,” said Dougherty, one of seven dignitaries to speak about the history of the bypass and what the new highway will mean for economic development of the city’s airport, industrial area the historic downtown and the region. About 500 people gathered around for the grand opening Oct. 5 on the Lincoln Bypass near the Ferrari Road interchange sponsored by DeSilva Gates Construction and Flat Iron Construction. Holiday Inn Express provided refreshments including cookies decorated for the occasion, provided parking and served as a launch point for NEVs helping with transportation. The Highway 65 bypass is four-lane highway from Industrial Boulevard to Nelson Lane. From Nelson Lane to Riosa Road in Sheridan the highway is two lanes. The highway has 17 bridges at 11 locations. The total cost to construct the first phase was $325 million. Lincoln has waited 42 years for the opening of the highway that will take traffic around the city of Lincoln and deposit commuting vehicles into Sheridan. Drivers who wish to enter the city can enter at Lincoln Boulevard, Ferrari Ranch Road or Nelson Lane. Lincoln City Councilman Tom Cosgrove, the master of ceremonies and a member of the Placer County Transportation Planning Agency board, introduced each speaker and thanked local and regional agencies and dignitaries for their role in bringing the Lincoln Bypass to reality. “The bypass will improve traffic and regional goods movement,” Cosgrove said. “This will help businesses downtown and Lincoln’s historical friendly main street. The bypass will open retail opportunities up at Ferrari Ranch Road, allow retail there to grow and new retail to come in. This is not just a transportation project. This is an economic development project.” Placer County Supervisor Jim Holmes tipped his hat to former Congressman Harold T. “Bizz” Johnson and former Congressman John Doolittle for the roles the two played to keep the bypass project alive. “Johnson was chair of the House Transportation Committee,” Holmes said. “He recognized the important role of transportation projects for our communities. That led to the celebration today. Doolittle helped get the project moving again when conflicts arose with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife and the Environmental Protection Agency. Doolittle recalled a critical meeting at his office in Granite Bay in 2004 with officials from the California Environmental Protection Agency over the route of the bypass. Cosgrove and officials from Placer County and Caltrans were present. “The head of the federal Environmental Protection Agency, Christy Whitman, had already signed off and there will still conflicts with local EPA officials,” Doolittle said. “They (local EPA officials) got the message to be reasonable. The approved route was more expensive and time dragged out but we worked together so this could happen resulting in a permanent improvement for the region.” Caltrans District 3 Director Jody Jones remembered when Caltrans employees studied the feasibility of the bypass in the eighties. “The lack of money did not stop us from laying the groundwork,” Jones said. “The vision was shared by the city and Placer County Transportation Planning Agency. I want to thank Tom (Cosgrove) and Celia McAdam (PCTPA executive director) for their tenacity in pursuing this project over the years. The bypass needed an advocate. Tom worked nonstop. Celia is renowned for matching local money to obtain federal grant funds.” Cosgrove said McAdam through her years as executive director of PCTPA has been an “absolute champion. She kept it going, she understands relationships and built bridges. Her expertise was invaluable.” “I can’t tell you how excited I am to say we are here opening the Lincoln Byass,” McAdam said. “The need for the bypass was recognized in the sixties and in 1973 it was included in the Placer County General Plan. I was in junior high at the time.” McAdam said the $1 million seed money from the city of Lincoln “sealed the deal.” She said a variety of agencies provided funding to keep the project moving, including Caltrans and the California Transportation Commission. Caltrans put $100 million in regional funds toward the project and California Transportation Commission awarded $70 million in Proposition 1B funds. The commission had to focus on projects that would achieve the most results, Andre Boutros, chief deputy director of the California Transportation Commission, said of why the bypass was selected to receive funding from a 2006 bond. The traveling public, safety and the economy were some the factors considered. He said because bid prices came in below costs for this project other transportation projects will be improved over time. “We’ve been very lucky the last four years,” Boutros said. Cosgrove said it’s difficult to imagine the responsibilities of the California Transportation Commission and the decision to invest in the bypass is appreciated. Waving to his smiling grandson in the crowd, Cosgrove said the bypass is for his son Darrell Cosgrove, daughter Erin Gearin and grandson Lucas Gearin. “In a lot of ways this is about him and the future,” Cosgrove said. The councilman cautioned those wishing to walk and bicycle on the bypass following the ribbon cutting ceremony to wait for those participating in the inaugural drive to get back for safety’s sake. Lincoln Hills Sports Car Group member Nicki Hobby said before joining the caravan, “There were some nice speakers. Everything was nice.” Ron Barringer, a former councilman and 40-year Lincoln resident who helped plan the bypass, drove a 1953 Oldsmobile while grandson Michael Barringer Jr., 15, road in a 1965 Ford truck with his friend Ben King, 17. “This is an exciting day for all Lincolnites,” Ron Barringer said. Keith Spencer took part in the inaugural ride in his 1929 Model A Sedan. “It’s going to be nice,” said Spencer, a resident of Sheridan for 28 years. “There will be no more traffic. I can bypass all the stoplights. I live in Sheridan and I can get home a lot faster.” Lincoln Boulevard celebration The city will celebrate the renaming of G Street/Highway 65 to Lincoln Boulevard from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. Oct. 20 with a parade from Auburn Ravine to Seventh Street scheduled from 9 to 10:30 a.m. Other events include a dedication ceremony at 9 a.m., live entertainment by bands and dancing, a car show, Lincoln Kiwanis pet parade, petting zoo, kid zone, craft booths and store specials. Those who wish to participate in the pet parade can call (916) 303-3661. The parade is open to any and all pets. Children and adults can enter. Deadline to register is Oct. 16. Line up starts at 8 a.m. Oct. 20 at 3rd and F streets.