NEVADA COUNTY (CBS13) – Caltrans is looking to improve a dangerous stretch of Highway 174 in Nevada County, hoping to save lives. But some locals say those plans will ruin the pretty landscape of the rural area.
“This is a road that needs improvement in order to make it safe for the drivers that are out there,” said Tom Brannon, Division Chief for Project Management, Caltrans District 3.
Highway 174 is the gateway from Colfax to Grass Valley. But Brannon says the two-mile stretch from Maple Way to You Bet Road is in need of some changes.
“We have a stretch of road that is experienced a higher than expected number of accidents,” he told CBS13.
From 2010 to 2013, the collision rate for Highway 174 was nearly twice as high as the state average, and the fatality rate was almost six times higher.
“Additional width needs to be added to each side so that there is an 8-foot shoulder so that when people leave the highway, for whatever reason, they’ve got an 8-foot strip of pavement, which they can recover and get back onto the highway,” Brannon said.
The plan also includes removing blind spots on the winding road, which means roughly 1,700 trees between Maple Way and You Bet Road have to go.
“It’s absolutely ridiculous,” said Carolyn Beardsley, who lives just off Hwy 174.
She’s part of a group called Save Highway 174. She’s lived there for 35 years and says cutting down trees will ruin the beauty around her home.
“It will not resemble anywhere else on this entire highway,” Beardsley said. “I feel terrible about it. I feel like it’s a loss of our community.”
Caltrans plans to spend $28 million on the project. But Beardsley says instead, California Highway Patrol should spend more time pulling people over for reckless driving on Highway 174.
“If there was law enforcement, [I] don’t think we’d have this problem at all,” she said
After two public meetings, Beardsley’s neighbors and Caltrans are still on opposite sides of the issue. But Brannon told CBS13 he’d like to reach a solution where people who love where they live can be safe enough to live there.
“It’s our obligation to do something,” he said. “We truly have to make the road as safe as possible.”
In January, Caltrans will start the process of acquiring the land on the side of the road necessary for the improvements. They hope to start construction 2019.