Placer County transit officials to pick new expressway route

By: Jon Brines, Placer Herald Correspondent
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Placer County transit officials are getting ready to choose a final route alignment for a new area expressway, the proposed Placer Parkway. “Even with the improvements, I-80 will suffer congestion and slowdowns,” said South Placer Regional Transit Authority Director and Rocklin Mayor Peter Hill. “The Placer Parkway will offer an alternative to I-80 and another way to get to Sacramento, I-5 north, the airport, and the Bay Area.” The proposed 14- to 16-mile route would jut off of I-65 just north of Sunset Boulevard and run along the edge of west Roseville and southern Placer County before meeting up with Highway 99 just north of Riego Road in Sutter County. SPRTA is meeting today at 10:45 a.m. at the Placer County Board of Supervisors Chambers in Auburn to consider the Final Tier 1 Environmental Impact Statement. It is the next step in the lengthy process before construction can begin. The public is invited to comment on the five proposed routes that would take the parkway through various farmland, wetland and Swainson’s Hawk and White-Tailed Kite habitat. Hill said he supports the fifth alternative that would take the road about three miles northwest of the Roseville Electric Plant before heading due west through open fields. “I think Alternative 5 offers the least damaging alternative,” Hill said. “The goal has always been to pick the least environmentally-damaging alternative and the one with the smallest inducement to future growth.”  Alternative 5 is also the shortest route with a no-access buffer. If the SPRTA board approves a route, it will lay the groundwork for acquiring the land and the second environmental review, known as “Tier 2,” before construction can begin. Hill said all cities involved will benefit from the new road. “The parkway will also support industrial and commercial development along Highway 65, including large areas in Rocklin,” Hill said.  Of the estimated $660 million cost, only $55 million has been secured. Construction was expected to begin in 2011 but the slowdown in the economy has slowed development fees, which could push the groundbreaking until after 2030. Rocklin Vice Mayor Scott Yuill, who participates with SPRTA said the developer fees that fund the road could hinder economic growth at a time when it is needed most. “The fees that you agree to, directly affects the builder and eventually the person or entity that buys that property. That’s a tax to them,” Yuill said. “That is a real problem.” The idea of a toll road to raise funding dollars has also been studied by the board. SPRTA, a joint powers authority made up of Placer County, Rocklin, Roseville and Lincoln, has been working on the plans for the parkway since 1998.