The project

CalTrans is proposing to widen and straighten a 1.9 mile length of Highway 174 in Nevada County, for a cost of almost $28.5 million in order to create a safer highway.

The CalTrans plan would:

· CLEAR CUT more than 1700 conifer trees, plus an undisclosed number of other trees

· REMOVE all vegetation to a minimum of 64 feet, and more on hillsides

· CONFISCATE over 14 acres of homeowner property on either side of the existing roadway

· SPEND nearly $28.5 million for less than 2 miles of road

View the full project report

Save Hwy 174 has many concerns regarding the project and its process:

The Process
- Lack of public involvement, transparency and responsiveness to community concerns.
(Example: A May 25, 2017 Chicago Park “Open House” provided no presentation of the project).
- Minimal disclosure and notice of availability of public documents for County residents.
(Example: The public notice for a June 9, 2016 Cal-Trans workshop was published on June 4)
- Save Highway 174 has continually requested Caltrans engineering documents (plan profiles/cross section sheets) since June 2017. As of this date, no documents received.
- Save Highway 174 met and presented to Caltrans on August 8, 2017, Goals and Suggestions for Design Alternatives. As of this date, no response received.
- No alternatives or revisions since Project Report done by Cal-Trans in June 2014.
- Minimal environmental analysis done for project in compliance with CEQA (see below).

The Roadway Design
- This Highway Design Standard drastically alters a rural, scenic Highway by increasing the current average of 22’- 28’ to a 64’ - 80’ or greater cleared section.

- The new Right of Way Width (ROW) standard (estimated at 120’-150’) would set a precedent for its application to other sections of Highway 174 and/or State Highways. Caltrans states that the current design standard for this type of highway requires 12’ wide paved lanes, 8’ wide paved shoulders, and a 20-foot Clear Recovery Zone (CRZ) beyond the fog lane line on each side of the highway. However, per the State Traffic Manual, the
CRZ is advisory and not mandated/nor law and needs to consider site-specific conditions: volume, speed, alignment, side slope, and environmental conditions.

The current roadway standard requires a number of unnecessary property acquisitions (53 parcels = 14+ acres)

- Negatively impact property values for many affected owners with a significant reduction of the visual and aesthetic and property values of the neighborhood, and greatly impacts residences fronting Highway 174.
- Relocation of above ground utilities beyond CRZ’s has not yet been analyzed or how undergrounding of power lines can be accommodated (per Public Utilities Code 320).

The Environmental Document
- Due to the sensitivity of this project on users of State Highway 174 and the environmental impacts with the loss of significant biological resources, Caltrans should have prepared an EIR rather than a Mitigated Negative Declaration, to provide the public reasonable opportunity to comment on the CEQA review.
- Minimum CEQA review did not address loss of bird nesting habitat with the removal of at least 1,700 mature trees many of which certainly contain active nests.
- No traffic analysis or speed survey conducted to assess present and future conditions.
- No noise analysis completed; the impact to residences fronting widened section unknown.

- The loss of jurisdictional wetlands will not be mitigated (replaced) in Nevada County; rather, Caltrans proposes to buy credits from a wetland mitigation bank, all of which are located in the Sacramento Valley.

- Within Climate Change Section, no analysis of climate/temperature alterations to nearby properties from increased pavement, ROW and loss of 1700 conifer trees and vegetation.
- An existing Bear Yuba Land Trust walking/biking path that ends where this project begins is not considered in the design.

- There is 12 ½ years of data available regarding collisions, injuries and fatalities. However, Caltrans selected a limited data sample of only 3 years (2010 – 2013) to justify this project.
From 2005 to 2017, there were a total of three fatalities, all occurring in the 2010 to 2013 period. This period’s average injury rate was also 70% higher than all of the other years.
- Caltrans provided that there were 102 accidents in this stretch of Highway 174 from 2005 to 2017. The top 3 primary collision factors are 30% speed, 26% improper turn (overcorrecting) and 14% Driving under the Influence (DUI).
- Per CHP Statewide Intregrated Traffic Records System (SMTRS), when compared to other State Highways in the County, this 1.9 mile section of Highway 174, is average in terms of collisions, injury collisions, injured persons and fatalities per mile per year.
- A number of studies concludes wider roadways increase speed and severity of collisions
- This safety project will not stop people from speeding, drinking and driving, or driving while distracted. Given the large number of driveways and side roads on Highway 174, and that people drive FASTER on straighter, wider roads, this design may actually make Highway 174 more dangerous.

Download a copy of our Position Statement.