Highway 50 Corridor Mobility Partnership Keeps Commuters Moving

With dramatic growth in jobs and housing in recent years in eastern Sacramento and western El Dorado counties, commuters on Highway 50 and the surrounding roadway networks currently endure severe peak-period traffic congestion. And with 78,000 dwellings and 53,000 more jobs projected for the region over the next 25 years, traffic would inundate this area without improvements in transportation infrastructure.

When Highway 50 was built in the 1960s and early ’70s, such extensive housing and job growth was not foreseen for the area. Throughout the Highway 50 corridor, which includes the cities of Rancho Cordova and Folsom, a comprehensive plan was needed to retain and create jobs, promote economic growth and preserve a high quality of life for the area’s residents and workers.

Meeting the Challenge

In 2005, four jurisdictions along the Highway 50 corridor (Folsom, Rancho Cordova, Sacramento County and El Dorado County) and four area land owners (GenCorp Realty Investments, Elliott Homes, AKT Development and Carpenter Ranch) formed the public- private Highway 50 Corridor Mobility Partnership. Caltrans, the Sacramento Area Council of Governments (SACOG) and Sacramento Regional Transit are also participating in the process. This public-private planning coalition — the first of its kind in the Sacramento region — is working proactively and collaboratively to address the significant and growing Highway 50 corridor problem.

The partnership’s initial goal was to develop a coordinated transportation plan that would reduce congestion in the Highway 50 corridor. As the process began, several jurisdictions and agencies were simultaneously planning individual transportation projects along the corridor. To affect overall transportation system performance, these projects needed to be considered regionally, not just within jurisdiction boundaries. With proposals pending in the area for more housing, jobs and growth, interested parties agreed that a public-private partnership would be more effective in planning, funding and implementing urgently needed transporta tion improvements than independently planned processes.

In December 2006, each of the participating jurisdictions unanimously passed resolutions supporting the collaborative planning process and encouraging it to continue.

Directing Studies and Creating Solutions

A technical group, assembled to conduct the partnership’s activities, included directors from public works, transportation and planning agencies, a represen tative of the private landowners, and consultants for project management and transportation engineering. The techni cal group, which met weekly for nearly a year, provided a forum for the public jurisdictions and private-sector partners to identify issues critical to the successful planning of major transportation infrastructure and maximize opportunities for timely implementation. An Executive Committee, composed of the CEOs from each participating partnership organiza tion, met four times during the initial study and provided policy direction to the effort.

The partnership’s technical work focused on the development of a travel demand model for the study area that would allow travel forecasts for near-term (2012 to 2017) and long-range (2030) time horizons. The travel model enabled the team to evaluate transportation improvements that best addressed the projected growth in the study area. The team also developed conceptual-level cost estimates for the proposed improvements and identified potential funding sources.

Since July 2007, the partnership has successfully carried out a community outreach and coalition-building effort designed to increase support and mo mentum for implementing the proposed projects. This support network includes several significant employers in the area, including Intel Corp. and Vision Service Plan, along with the Sacramento, Rancho Cordova, Folsom and El Dorado County Joint Chambers of Commerce.

Defining the Transportation and Economic Future

The partnership identified 10 critical near-term priority transportation improvements — slated for development in the next five to 10 years — that will significantly improve mobility and provide more transportation choices along the Highway 50 corridor. When developed, these transit and roadway projects are expected to reduce delay during commute hours by 30 percent. These and other recommended longer-term projects would provide additional benefit and help increase the number of area residents and workers using alternative forms of transportation. A sample of recommended improvements for the near-term include:

  • Adding “passing tracks” on the eastern segment of the light rail line running from Sacramento to Folsom;
  • Providing bus rapid transit/express bus service on Sunrise Boulevard, a key north-south connector;
  • Improving several roadways, including White Rock Road, Hazel Avenue, Ran cho Cordova Parkway, Easton Valley Parkway, International Drive, Zinfandel Drive and Douglas Road; and
  • Constructing Highway 50 auxiliary lanes.

The partnership also identified several longer-term transit and roadway improve ments for development over the next 
25 years. Estimated costs for the near-term priority projects are $424 million, 
a significant portion of which must come from a combination of public and private sources. Funding is now the focus of the partnership’s efforts as it shifts from its previous planning endeavors to an imple mentation role.

Following the passage of Proposition 1B in November 2006, the California Transpor tation Commission (CTC) adopted one of the partnership’s near-term priorities — the White Rock Road straightening and widening project. The CTC will award the project $22 million in state bond funding in May 2011. This outcome likely would not have been possible without the plan ning work done earlier by the partnership, which worked actively with SACOG to successfully position this strategically critical project. The White Rock Road project is one of only two non-highway projects to receive funding in the CTC’s initial process, which includes a program of funding $4.5 billion for the Corridor Mobility Improvement Account.

Making Life Easier for Commuters

Highway 50 corridor commuters now have several transportation alternatives, including a light-rail line that extends to Folsom, high-occupancy vehicle lanes, more bus and rapid transit options and carpool programs. The partnership’s long-term recommendations will continue to offer transportation alternatives, reduce delays during commute hours and improve over all mobility. For more information on the partner ship’s recommendations and other related developments, visit www.50mobility.com.

Contacts: Rich Lorenz, public works director, City of Folsom; phone: (916) 355-7200; e-mail: rlorenz@folsom.ca.us; or Gene Endicott, project consultant, Endicott Communications; phone: (916) 719-7214; e-mail: gene@endicottcommunications.com.

This article appears in the May 2008 issue of Western City
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