MEASURE Y BEFORE BOS AGAIN…
Last week the Board of Supervisors (BOS) held another public special meeting for the Measure Y Committee. Measure Y members challenged calculations affecting the current level of service (LOS) on Highway 50 and the interpretation of Measure Y. Measure Y proponent Bill Center (former county Supervisor for District 4 ) has indicated he will be unveiling another voter initiative in which most, if not all, residential subdivisions will be prohibited/must be denied in El Dorado County. The LOS F claim is based on a small section of Hwy 50 near the Sacramento County line (more on LOS in following article) and purportedly without options for improving/ mitigating for traffic on Hwy 50. This hearing was troubling for several reasons. First: EDC transportation and planning staff was not available. It is customary for staff responsible for a given topic to provide feedback as questions arise regarding their areas of expertise. In this case EDC/DOT has several transportation engineers on staff, but no staff responded to the Measure Y presentation or subsequent BOS and public’s questions.
Second: We found the information presented by the Measure Y Committee to be inaccurate and/or lacking in comprehensive information that would inform the BOS and public. To be fair, Measure Y speakers clarified that they were not traffic engineers, yet they critiqued numbers used in the LOS calculations by staff and various agency traffic engineers.
Supervisor Ray Nutting repeatedly asked for staff to respond to questions posed by the BOS and members of the public, but no staff came forward. After Supervisor Nutting expressed frustration that no answers were provided, Chairman Briggs (District 4) reported he had directed staff not to participate in the Measure Y presentation. Business Alliance (BA) representatives also expressed frustration that no staff responded to important and timely questions.
According to BA Chairwoman Kimberly Beal, “I’ve attended BOS meetings for decades now and the‘normal’ procedure would be for the presentation to be forwarded to staff in advance and they’d prepare a response if information was unclear or inaccurate. Also, posted information should have included slides used from prior Measure Y presentations and staff’s subsequent clarification including EDC’s Traffic Engineer’s 9/23/13 follow-up. For transparency all background, including the entire 2008 Measure Y voter approved text, should have been readily available. That would have clarified misinformation and statements made out of context.”
Regarding concerns of inaccurate information: the Measure Y Introduction slide was misleading when it stated that supporters of Measure Y “…were here to challenge the LUPPU plan to build 20,000 homes without being able to mitigate for traffic as required by Measure Y. To be clear, LUPPU is a process - not a plan. The LUPPU process is to implement the adopted General Plan (GP): the GP IS the PLAN. People may oppose LUPPU if they believe the process is doing something new/different such as promoting more growth:
In fact the GP is the plan for how to handle growth anticipated IN the ADOPTED GP. It’s that simple and not sinister. Measure Y supporters may not like the Plan, but LUPPU is implementing many good things that communities like and want, such as the new web portal, community identity planning, financial support for community projects via grants, the new Long Range Planning Department, and more.
However, the key point of dispute presented at the meeting was the discussion of the Travel Demand Model (TDM) and information, data, assumptions and projections in it. Former DOT employee, engineer and LUPPU/Regulatory Reform participant Kris Payne, clarified some of the information and the process. In reference to Measure Y challenges as to the number of vehicle trips reported on Mt Murphy Road, Kris explained that part of the calibration process is for traffic engineers to “calibrate until they hit a level of confidence” with the data. It’s a process that can take time within the system of perfecting a model. He felt the input provided by the public would help to improve the TDM overall.
Payne also brought up an often-ignored fact: “Highway 50 is a transcontinental flow-through” roadway. As such it’s not possible for local residents to control or fully mitigate that fact. Intercontinental traffic (cars/trucks that are a part of US commerce) come as part of being a larger transportation corridor than just El Dorado County and the Sacramento region control. He also asked a question which brought audience laughter: “Which development project in the past actually caused the issue on Hwy 50?” Payne wrapped up by noting that “existing deficiencies” (which cannot legally be charged to “new” development to remedy), and past decisions are resulting in what we see today.
Speaker Henry Batsel also provided input regarding existing deficiencies. He noted he’d been following local traffic issues for over a decade and showed numerous manuals and studies he’d perused in educating himself on the issue of trip generation, professional standards, funding of transportation improvements and more. Batsel noted that Hwy 50’s existing deficiencies are approximately $400 million of Traffic Impact Mitigation (TIM) fees (if those improvements were to be undertaken) and reminded the BOS that there was an estimated 52% of deficiencies credited to existing issues at the time the TIM fees were enacted. Very few of those improvements have been made. Noted Batsel, “…no one is discussing or dealing with existing deficiencies”. TIM fees can’t be used for repairs: deterioration is not due to insufficient TIM fees but to underfunded maintenance programs.”
Batsel further noted that the locally underfunded road improvement network is due in great part to past deficiencies that exist. In his comments to the BOS, Bill Center claimed that most roads throughout rural EDC have lots of capacity and that only Hwy 50 is at LOS F. Center concluded that local TIM fees are inappropriate and should be eliminated altogether. (We note this is not how Measure Y was crafted. Additionally, if this were to take place, money would not be collected now to improve those local roads. As noted, the deterioration of roads is due to underfunded maintenance programs.) Batsel continued by stating that Bassi Road is one of the very few local roads that has seen trips increase in recent years; the rest of local roads have experienced a reduction in trips. Batsel concluded, “Bill Center is wrong: 30% of housing increases does not increase trips by 30%.” Since staff couldn’t provide input to the BOS, the matter was held over again for further discussion on February 24, 2014.