Some long-desired sidewalk improvements along Highway 49 in Auburn will become reality in the near future. As part of the overall effort to close the gaps in sidewalks along Highway 49 between Interstate 80 and Dry Creek Road, PCTPA staff applied for an Active Transportation Program grant. Although the grant process is extremely competitive, the California Transportation Commission approved a grant for the multi-million dollar project in late January. Construction is expected to start in late 2021 and be completed in 2022.
What does that mean for you? Pedestrians will no longer have to walk in dirt (or mud in the winter) on the busy shoulder along Highway 49. In addition to sidewalks, the project will also upgrade sidewalk curb ramps at intersections throughout the corridor. Students at the six schools in the corridor will enjoy a safer walk or ride to school. The project will fill in most of the sidewalk gaps in the 4.4-mile stretch of road, specifically in places where the pedestrian access turns to dirt or trails, or forces people to walk on the highway shoulder.
PCTPA applied for funding through the state’s Active Transportation Planning program, a highly competitive program with over 500 applications submitted. Only the highest-ranking projects received funding. The keys to success for the Highway 49 project included community support, strong evidence of prior community outreach, demonstrated need for safety improvements and a financial commitment from PCTPA to supplement the funding. The total cost is expected to be $16.4 million, with $14.4 million covered by the state and $2 million in PCTPA Congestion Mitigation Air Quality funding. This newest project continues the momentum of a larger effort to turn Highway 49 into a complete street throughout the corridor through the Caltrans Highway 49 Rehabilitation Project. Eventually, the goal of the Highway 49 Rehabilitation Project is to have continuous bike lanes in both directions, add two signalized pedestrian crossings at busy intersections and increased sidewalk coverage on the roadway.
The Caltrans Highway 49 Rehabilitation Project is likely to start in 2019. The PCTPA portion of the project just awarded will start later in 2022. The schools in the corridor include Rock Creek Elementary, Auburn Elementary, E.V. Cain Middle School, Maidu High Independent Study, Confluence High School and Placer High School. Placer County’s Department of Public Health plans to work with schools to develop a Safe Routes to School Program educating students on how to safely use the redesigned roadway and encourage walking and biking to school.
Project partners in addition to Caltrans and local schools include Placer County, the City of Auburn, the Auburn Chamber of Commerce, Highway 49 Business Association, Wood Rodgers, and Fehr & Peers Transportation Consultants. PCTPA and its member jurisdictions are committed to implement many alternative planned transportation projects in the County. However, a long term source of local funding is needed in order to move forward with many of these projects and to make our County competitive for additional state and federal grant programs.