Quality of life discussions surrounded nearly every poster-board at the Capitol Southeast Connector JPA workshop Tuesday evening as residents, many from El Dorado Hills’ Four Seasons community off White Rock Road, studied a road project they say will ruin their peaceful neighborhood.
“It just doesn’t make much sense to us,” said Sandra Parsons. “I don’t understand why (the road) has to come up to Silva Valley.”
The Capital Southeast Connector ties Highways 5 and 99 to Highway 50 via a four- to six-lane expressway, with bike lanes, stretching 35 miles mostly in southern Sacramento County. A JPA consisting of representatives from Elk Grove, Sacramento County, Folsom, Rancho Cordova and El Dorado County oversee the project, which is designed to alleviate traffic congestion at the downtown Sacramento interchange and on Highway 50. Construction could begin in 2013 or later.
But some who attended Tuesday’s workshop said the connector simply moves the congestion from Sacramento County to El Dorado County. The connector ends as a four-lane White Rock Road, which will flow into the new Silva Valley Parkway interchange (construction set to begin in 2012).
“Why bring it into an area that already has businesses … homes and congestion?” Parsons asked. Despite reading all the information outlined Tuesday and speaking with those working on the project, she said she still felt uneasy.
With some homes less than 20 feet from White Rock Road, Four Seasons resident Helen Macys said, “It’s going to ruin the serenity of the property.” Macys prefers an alternative not included on the poster-boards that would eliminate El Dorado County from the project. The connector could end at Scott Road (in Folsom’s sphere of influence), she suggested.
The project’s draft program environmental impact report, currently open for review and public comment, does not suggest the connector will have a significant impact on El Dorado County traffic flows, according to JPA Executive Director Tom Zlotkowski. Read the full draft PEIR at connectorjpa.net.
The project could actually relieve some congestion by distributing the traffic that currently congests El Dorado Hills Boulevard, Zlotkowski said. The executive director acknowledged that traffic counts will go up but traffic flow could improve. Other projects planned in the area – the expansion of the business park and residential developments – will also add cars to the roads, he said, explaining, “The connector is not the only reason the traffic volumes are going to grow.”
El Dorado County accounts for only 3 percent of the entire project, said Shannon Hatcher, an air quality, climate change and noise project manager with ICF International, the company that prepared the draft PEIR. As comments and concerns come in, Hatcher said they might revise their analyses to address issues in El Dorado County. As it stands now most of the impacts and proposed mitigations affect Sacramento County.
One mitigation that could make the project more palatable is the inclusion of the Empire Ranch Road interchange and the proposed cut-across that would siphon traffic headed to the El Dorado Hills Business Park off the connector prior to the road dumping into El Dorado County, said John Raslear, chairman of the Four Seasons Civic League. Those projects are currently on a “Christmas wishlist” and have no funding, according to Raslear. The project map, which includes several connector route alternatives, does not include these roads.
El Dorado County’s 2010 Capital Improvement Plan includes the business park connector road description but sets construction in the “future,” beyond the CIP’s five-year planning period. Some of the planning and environmental work is being done now, according to the CIP project schedule.
Interested parties have until May 13 to comment on the Capital Southeast Connector’s draft PEIR. A hard copy of the draft PEIR is available at the El Dorado Hills Library. To read the report online go to the JPA’s website; there you can also request a hard copy.
Written comments on the DEIR must be provided by May 13 and should be sent to:
Tom Zlotkowski, executive director
Capital Southeast Connector JPA
10640 Mather Blvd, Suite 120
Mather, CA 95655
Fax: (916) 876-9097