The intersection where Deer Valley Road meets Green Valley Road has gained a dangerous reputation. Green Springs Ranch residents want El Dorado County officials to do something about it.
Last week District 1 Supervisor John Knight and county Department of Transportation Deputy Director Matt Smeltzer began dialogue with concerned residents of the semi-rural development, a community of 107 estate ranchettes that predates its southerly neighbor, Serrano, by a couple decades.
Access to the historic “ranch,” as the residents call it, is through a gate on Deer Valley Road along a long straight stretch of Green Valley Road east of El Dorado Hills. A dangerous mix of high speeds and a hill to the east that blocks visibility and hinders acceleration to those exiting east has left residents feeling like they take their lives in their hands every time they leave the ranch.
“You can’t see cars coming over the hill,” said resident Tony Kopcych, who has made it his mission to get a safe solution after his wife suffered major injuries in the intersection three days after Christmas last year. “When you turn left onto Green Valley Road to go to El Dorado Hills or Folsom, they’re on your butt.”
While waiting to turn left onto Deer Valley Road, Shirley Kopcych’s car was struck at an estimated 50 MPH from behind, forcing it into oncoming traffic, where it was again struck, this time broadside. Four people were injured, the worst being Shirley Kopcych, who was taken by helicopter to Roseville Trauma Center with several broken bones, a concussion, a damaged liver and multiple contusions. Medical bills are approaching a quarter million dollars thus far. The driver who struck her has $100,000 coverage, according to Tony.
A rare passing zone on Green Valley Road complicates matters; it’s located directly west of the intersection, encouraging aggressive driving on rural-feeling road, he added. “Some of the people bearing down on us are in the wrong lane, going way over the speed limit.”
The posted speed limit is 55 MPH.
After the accident Green Springs Ranch Landowners Association Secretary Ron Keil met with DOT Director Jim Ware and California Highway Patrol officials. He reported to the landowners association in February 2010 that Ware promised a long-planned widening of Green Valley Road in July would include turn lanes in both directions at the intersection but the project was subsequently pushed to 2011 as part of developer funded roadwork required for the Silver Springs subdivision, which will also include a new, fully signalized intersection at the planned Silver Springs Parkway, east of Pleasant Grove Middle School.
Preliminary DOT statistics gathered by Keil showed 25 accidents and 27 injuries occurring at the intersection from 2001 through 2008.
Kopcych dug into CHP accident records and found that from 2000 to 2010 there were 78 accidents, with 52 injuries within a couple thousand feet of the intersection.
Many accidents were attributed to unsafe speed, improper passing or animals in the road – both deer and turkey are plentiful in the area. Green Springs Ranch residents provided Kopcych anecdotal family evidence of many accidents predating those statistics, including a fatal collision in the mid 1990s.
All of which led to Knight and Smeltzer attending the regular Green Springs Ranch Landowners Association meeting on Nov. 10 to explain the delay in long-promised intersection improvements and discuss a possible interim solution.
Residents, hoping to slow traffic on Green Valley Road, asked if the passing lane could be removed, or the speed limit lowered. Neither is practical, according to Smeltzer and Knight. Knight said he’d ask CHP for heightened enforcement in the area.
Knight assured the polite but concerned audience of about 30 landowners in the Pleasant Grove Middle School library that DOT now has the funding for the intersection improvements, so “It’s not if, it’s when.”
All necessary right of way for the required road widening has been secured, Smeltzer said, adding that the project plans are “nearly final. ” He described a wider Green Valley Road with 400 feet of turn and deceleration lanes, 8-foot shoulders and bike lanes. The project weighs in at $700,000, he said.
Part of the delay was that the Silver Springs Parkway and Deer Valley Road intersection projects, both funded by the same developer, were combined for economic reasons, Smeltzer explained. The bid package is nearly complete. Construction is targeted for spring.
Smeltzer stopped short of promising that Deer Valley Road intersection improvements would be complete next year, given that two intersections are now included in the project. Because of the unconfirmed timing, he said, interim improvements can be considered.
Smeltzer described a short term fix proposed by retiring DOT Traffic Operations Superintendent Jim Imes that would use the existing shoulders to squeeze in a temporary turn lane. Smeltzer later said enhanced signage might be part of either short or long term safety solutions for the intersection.
Sensing the urgency in the room, Knight promised, “If we can do the quick fix, we’ll do it.” He committed to report back to the association within two weeks.
Green Springs Ranch is one of the oldest documented pioneer settlements in El Dorado County, according to the Rescue Historical Society, which traces the community’s roots to Rufus Hitchcock’s Green Springs House — an inn and supply stop established in 1848 along the Old Coloma Road, a portion of which is still visible from the entrance.
William Dormody, a successful merchant and native of County Kilkenny, Ireland, purchased the approximately 1,000-acre Green Springs Ranch at auction in 1854 for $6,400. The ranch became a popular respite for travelers and a destination for weddings and other festivities.
In an early example of El Dorado Hills fortitude, the 60-year old Dormody took an 18-year-old bride in 1856 and proceeded to father eight children. Howard Greehalgh purchased the ranch from the Dormody estate in 1956 and subdivided it in 1976, leaving the Green Springs Ranch rural development on one of the largest parcels.