Wednesday, August 10, 2005

Draft plan addresses regional transportation needs

Small turnout graced a public hearing on Wednesday, Aug. 3 to discuss the Lake County Regional Transportation Plan, which is currently in a period of 30-day public review.

Dow & Associates prepared a draft of the plan for the Lake County/City Area Planning Council. Laidlaw Transit Services District Manager Jim Crouch characterized the document as a large "wish list" covering various transportation areas. These include Lake County's state highways, its local road system, non-motorized transportation (that is, facilities for pedestrians and cyclists), transit services and aviation. The need for maintenance and rehabilitation has been identified as a main concern that is shared by all local agencies.

A newsletter recently mailed to households in Lake County illustrated county roads' dire shape according to a Pavement Condition Index -- with more than 70 percent of Clearlake streets reported in "very poor or poor condition." It summarized the findings of a Pavement Management Program (PMP) update that was recently completed for the APC.

The exciting thing about the PMP, according to APC consultant Phil Dow, is that it enables county and city planners to input available resources in order to help determine where those resources can be used most effectively.

If issues raised on Wednesday are any indication, not everyone will agree about priorities for items in the regional plan. One attendee, for example, questioned the benefit of street lighting, arguing that the money would be better spent by paving more miles of road. "We have clear nighttime skies thanks to our clean air," he said. "When you turn on street lights, the stars go out.

"The people we want to attract to Lake County have beamers' with (bright) lights," the man added. "They don't need street lights."

Dow responded that street lights were requested by community residents to enhance night-time safety. And Crouch pointed out potential liability issues associated with transit riders who disembark at poorly-lit stops.

Other ideas proffered during Wednesday's public hearing included a network of Class I "bike paths" connecting communities around the lake. The plan identifies this type of separated bikeway as having limited application in Lake County due to the expense associated with construction and the need to acquire right-of-way. Instead, the plan calls for Class II and Class III bikeways that are adjacent to or on-street, especially in areas near local public schools.

Another idea concerned the expansion of Lake Transit 's Route 3 between Clearlake and St. Helena into a commuter route. Crouch reported upon schedule changes that will go into effect in September, adding an early afternoon run for two runs four days a week. But since the Clearlake-to-St. Helena bus route is sponsored by St. Helena Hospital, service times have been established to meet transportation needs of patients.

Needs mentioned to this reporter by residents outside the hearing setting concerned Clearlake curb, gutter and sidewalk improvements that are ADA-compliant. The plan identifies special need in the City of Clearlake for "efficient pedestrian facilities due to the concentrated number of elderly and disabled residents of the city. It is important to incorporate wheelchair and disabled access into all pedestrian improvements."

Published in the Clear Lake Observer American

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