Over the last 10 years, there have been over 1,150 traffic collisions on Highway 49 between McKnight Way in Grass Valley and Dry Creek Rd Auburn. On average, 2/3 of these accidents have injuries and there are 2 fatal collisions a year with over 25 fatalities in the last 10 years. 5 people were killed in a two month period the winter of 2016-2017. In the last decade Traffic Volume has increased 10%, but Accident Rates have increased 40%. We have witnessed that during a wildfire we need an adequate evacuation route. Because Hwy 49 is only 1 lane in each direction south of Grass Valley, this will create a choke point during an emergency.
I attended the Hwy 49 Safety meeting on 8/14/17 at the CHP Headquarters. Caltrans is proposing an "out of the box" solution:
1) Widen Hwy 49 north of Combie Rd to 4 lanes all the way to McKnight Way in Grass Valley
2) Add traffic circles/roundabouts at major intersections and remove the traffic lights
3) Install a center median
This will solve the issues of how drivers who live on Hwy 49 can safely access the highway, and eliminate the need for frontage roads. Drivers coming out of driveways will only be able to turn right and drive up to the next traffic circle where they can safely turn around to go the other direction greatly improving safety. Through drivers will not hit red lights on their way to work or home. Instead they will have two lanes for their entire Hwy 49 commute, but they will need to slow down every mile or two to get through the circles at major intersections. This sounds radical, but Truckee has been doing this for a decade and seen dramatic reductions in accidents and their severity. It also allows for a center median which prevents the deadly head-on collisions with impact speeds of 110-150 mph. Widening Hwy 49 will also allow for a mass evacuation during a fire and allow emergency vehicles to respond to accidents. We applaud Caltrans for this innovative solution and hope this solution can be fast tracked! Please email our leaders located on the home page.
Click the below text to listen to the entire 2/9/17 February KNCO Interview